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His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros, Keynote Remarks for Intercessory Prayer Service for Ukraine

His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America 

Keynote Remarks 

Intercessory Prayer Service for Ukraine 

March 9, 2022 

Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Volodymyr  

New York City 

Dear Governor Hochul, 

Your Eminence, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, 

Dear Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, 

Metropolitan Tikhon, 

Metropolitan Antony of Hierapolis,  

Your Eminences, Excellencies and Graces, 

Esteemed Representatives of the Diplomatic Corps, 

Honored Members of Ecumenical and Interfaith Communities, 

Ladies and Gentlemen,  

Dear Sisters and Brothers, 

 

Over the past two weeks, the world has watched as Russia launched an unjust and violent invasion into Ukraine. During these turbulent times, we earnestly pray for those whose lives are affected by this brutal assault. The implications of the current humanitarian tragedy are being felt throughout Ukraine, in its neighboring countries, and around the world.  

Violence in the world is a somber sign of our fallen reality and the imperfection of our human experience, enslaved by the brokenness of our hearts which have been disfigured by our estrangement from the presence of God. Violence is a sin in perfect contradiction with the vocation for which men and women were created: to carry the supreme legacy of God’s image, while simultaneously growing in His likeness. Therefore, no war can ever be called “holy” nor even “just” in an attempt to rationalize it as morally acceptable. Today’s bloodshed in Ukraine must be set squarely upon the shoulders of Vladimir Putin, who is risking global peace for his own selfish political agenda. 

We are witnessing an immense tragedy of human suffering: the targeting of civilians, assassination and terror, and the deaths of innocents, especially children. Yet, we know that Ukrainians and Russians are both children nourished from the same breast. They are brothers and sisters in Christ. How is it possible that such a fratricide is taking place on the Holy Ground of Kyivan Rus’? 

Ten days ago, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew said: we “…plead to end the war now. To immediately stop any act of violence, anything that spreads pain and death. Let reason prevail, love for fellow human beings, reconciliation and solidarity, the light of the Risen Christ, the gift of life.”  

In this same spirit, we join ourselves to these sentiments expressed by His All-Holiness and we exhort the Faithful: to offer prayers and tangible support for all the Ukrainian People — those of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine and those of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate — for those of the Ukrainian Catholic and Jewish communities, for those belonging to a religion and for those without religion, and for all those who find themselves in the dire circumstances of war. I would like to commend His Eminence Metropolitan Antony of Hierapolis and His Eminence Archbishop Daniel of Pamphilon for their inspirational leadership during these challenging times. As they host this prayer service in their Cathedral, we thank them for allowing us this opportunity to gather and pray together in a spirit of solidarity and compassion. 

Today, we feel blessed to be surrounded by so much love and support from the friends of Ukraine. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to all of you today for answering our call to pray for peace in Ukraine with such readiness. In response to the tragic humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and the immediate aid needed there, we, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, have announced a major fundraising effort that will help those most affected by the Russian invasion. This is why —as a first step — we have donated $100,000 to the Ecumenical Patriarchate to support the efforts of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, and have also created the Ukrainian Relief Effort, which was established in collaboration with International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC). 

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Sisters and Brothers, 

As the Righteous Gideon proclaimed, “the Lord is peace” (Judges 6:24). During each of our worship services, we pray “for the peace of the whole world,” because peace is more than the balance of powers or the absence of war. Peace is a state by which God’s presence reveals itself. “For Christ is our peace,” writes Saint Paul, and “in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us” (Ephesians 2:14). 

As we watch the news from the region, we are inspired by both the incredible courage of the Ukrainian people who are facing terrible adversity with a valor which no one expected, and by the bravery of the many thousands of Russian People who are risking their freedom — and perhaps even their lives — as they protest this unprovoked and unreasonable attack. The current situation reminds me of what Alexander Solzhenitsyn once wrote: “Someone that you have deprived of everything is no longer in your power. He is once again entirely free.” It is this sense of freedom that brings inspiration to and respect from the entire world.  

We are called to not only forgive our enemies, but to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44). Here we can take it one step further: Let us see no enemy in any of our brothers and sisters. For truly, the love of Christ can break down all barriers, transforming us into one united family able to resist evil and bring healing to the wounds from which our world is suffering at this very moment. To me, this is the prophetic lesson that His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has taught us by granting the Tomos of Autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in 2019. The spiritual independence of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine was — and even more so today is — the real response to division. An independent Orthodox Church as a promise of unity for the people of Ukraine: this was the vision of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. When the time comes to consider the reconstruction of this wonderful country in the aftermath of this tragedy, I see a wonderful opportunity for the Orthodox Church to be a catalyst and a source for renewed unity. 

Thank you for joining us today. May God bless Ukraine and the Ukrainian people!