September 19, 2010
Commemoration of the
Asia Minor Holocaust
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,
Today, Sunday September 19, has been designated by the Holy Eparchial Synod as a day of commemoration of the Asia Minor Holocaust, a great catastrophe of incalculable proportions which was tragically forced upon the Greek populations of Turkey in the years following the World War I. Over a period of a few years, over one and a half million Greeks, families and communities that had been in Asia Minor for millennia, were expelled or killed. As in the case of the tragedy in Smyrna in September of 1922, many had to flee in fear, as the perpetrators of ethnic cleansing destroyed homes and livelihoods and met resistance with executions. Others died trying to escape or during the arduous journey to Greece. Farmers and merchants, clergy, mothers and children, old and young, all faced destitution, disease, suffering, and death.
Lives were lost and irreparably altered; homelands were taken away, injuring both physical and spiritual identities; and the impact and tragedy of this catastrophe has continued for decades. It is fitting that on this day we offer prayers of remembrance and memorial for all who suffered in this great Holocaust, for so many innocent and peaceful people. We do this in love and respect for the lives and struggles of our fathers and mothers and our brothers and sisters in Christ. We also observe this commemoration as a witness to the truth of the Gospel which affirms life and love, and with hope that the powers and authorities of this earth will lament the evils of the past and embrace tolerance, civility, and inviolable acceptance of liberty for all people.
On behalf of the Hierarchs of the Holy Eparchial Synod, I ask all of our parishes to offer petitions, memorial services and other commemorations for this day of remembrance and request that special programs are organized to increase awareness and to promote action against all threats of ethnic cleansing or genocide at any place and for any peoples. As Orthodox Christians, as Greek Americans, and as people of truth, faith, and love, may we know both the blessings and tragedies of the past, may we share in the power and presence of our Lord, and may we pray to God and labor in this world for conditions of peace and freedom so that all may come to a knowledge of the significance of love and for the need for a creative co-existence of peoples.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America