To the Most Reverend Hierarchs, the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of the Parish Councils of the Greek Orthodox Communities, the Distinguished Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Day, Afternoon, and Church Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I write to you on the inspiring Feast of Saint Photios the Great, which our Holy Orthodox Church today commemorates. The life and legacy of Saint Photios, who served as Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople during the 9th century, left an indelible footprint upon the Christian world. Saint Photios proclaimed the truth of the Gospel with brilliance, precision, and foresight through many ways: His well-known and profound theological writings, particularly on the Holy Spirit, remain primary sources for study in contemporary theological education. His untiring offering of Christian leadership and hope to his people, even in times when Saint Photios found himself in the midst of unwarranted controversy, continues to serve as an inspiring example for all who know the difficulties associated with their ministry to others in the name of Jesus Christ. His passionate emphasis upon the missionary work of the Church to proclaim the Gospel, with concentrated efforts to the people of the Slavic lands, serves as a reminder to us that the Church must always be active in mission, as Christ commissioned to His disciples, Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).
As we reverentially remember Saint Photios, we take into account the tremendous impact of his teachings and actions both on the Church of his time, and also on Orthodoxy in general throughout the centuries that followed. In recognition of this historic fact, our Holy Archdiocese has erected, as one among many of its sacred institutions in this country, a Shrine dedicated to Saint Photios. Located in St. Augustine, Florida, a very old city in America, our Saint Photios National Shrine provides an active witness of our Greek Orthodox faith today to the people of our American nation. The Saint Photios Shrine serves the important purpose of providing all its visitors with tangible and permanent reminders of this most holy man and the historical events which surrounded his person. This applies equally to all the faithful Orthodox Christians who make pilgrimages to the Shrine from places far and near, and to all those of all faiths who find and enter the Shrine as they tour the city of St. Augustine.
In addition to communicating the significance of Saint Photios as one of the most prominent figures in the life of our Holy Orthodox Church, the Saint Photios Shrine also serves the purpose of chronicling the lives of the first Greek immigrants to America, who settled in Florida in 1768, in what came to be known as the colony of “New Smyrna.” After a decade of enduring great struggles and hardship, these early Greek settlers relocated to the city of St. Augustine and began to utilize a Spanish colonial building known as the “Avero House” for their religious and social gatherings. Here, they began the steady course of building their lives in their new home. It was here also where our Archdiocese formally established the Saint Photios Shrine after purchasing the Avero House in 1966. The decision to name the Shrine after Saint Photios was, thus, a natural choice consistent with the role of missionary activity in the life of the Church, as the faith and heritage of these early colonists represented one of the earliest presences of Orthodox Christianity in the Americas.
Today, the Saint Photios Shrine maintains an active chapel and a renovated museum, thus dynamically promoting a prayerful and educational atmosphere of faith, culture, and history for all who visit the Shrine. As is our annual practice, our National Ladies Philoptochos Society will be leading us in collecting funds for the continued progress of the ministry of our Saint Photios National Shrine. Accordingly, a special tray will be passed throughout our congregations as we commemorate this Feast. I kindly ask that you consider giving this year to the Shrine, as your contributions help and promote the general operations of the Shrine, enabling it to continue as a vibrant, inspiring, and active witness of our Orthodox Christian faith and history. I pray on this sacred day, through the intercessions of Saint Photios the Great, that the love and light of Christ may abide in your hearts always.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America