Holy Trinity Cathedral, New York, September 18, 1999
Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen ( Revelation of John 7,12).
This beautiful Biblical hymn from the book of the Revelation of John expresses my feelings at this solemn hour: feelings of fervent worship and adoration offered to the Triune God, and, at the same time, intense prayer to have His mercy, love, and power supporting me in the sacred task in which He has called me, to serve as Archbishop His selected and beloved people of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
My adoring reference to God, is accompanied by feelings of the warmest thanks to His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomaios and to the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate for the supreme honor of bestowing upon me the awesome responsibility of tending the bright and high promising flock of the Greek Orthodox faithful in this great country.
I am thinking, also very thankfully, of my distinguished and holy predecessors, the Archbishops Alexander, Athenagoras and Michael of blessed memory, and the Archbishops lakovos and Spyridon. They have served with all their power the very same people whom I am going to serve, thus continuing their work. I extend my particular thanks to His Eminence Archbishop lakovos for the very gracious words he offered me as representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch and for his truly inspiring and edifying address.
I should like to extend my sincere thanks to my precious Brothers the Metropolitans and Bishops, the pious clergy and the faithful lay people for the warm reception and the plentiful of love they showed me. My wholehearted thanks also extend to the Church of Greece and to the Greek Government for their support and their presence here through distinguished representatives. Last but not least, I am expressing my warm thanks to the honorable representatives of the U. S. A. governmental and political leadership and to all the distinguished friends, religious, civil, academic, and business leaders, who were kind enough to participate in this ceremony.
On this solemn occasion, please allow me, in the spirit of love and honor for all of you, to bring to our attention a few basic issues which are significant for our work in the years to follow. I will limit myself to three of them which seem to be the most significant and which constitute fundamental priorities in the life of the Church.
The first, is the issue of the cultivation and growth of our Orthodox faith which our Ecumenical Patriarchate has preserved intact and immaculate. This is a faith by which our Church lives and functions for twenty centuries. A faith which gave to the world millions of true Christians faithful to the Gospel of Christ. millions of saints and martyrs. A faith which the great and genius Fathers and Ecumenical Teachers of the Church defended, safeguarded and delivered to us whole, clear, and undistorted. A faith which created a wonderful tradition in which with utter discretion and control have been used and incorporated elements from the Greek cultural heritage.
This Orthodox faith has been always and is still today a basic priority for us. This is the reason why a number of serious questions is raised at this crucial moment: How much intense and deep is our consciousness of this Orthodox faith? How much we feel bound as individuals and as a community to our Orthodox Christian beliefs? How much do we know the substance of this faith as power and knowledge? As a power capable of changing the human beings and the world, as capable of Moving even the mountains and of rendering the impossible possible ( Matthew 17, 20-21 )? As a knowledge which offers the saving truth about God. humanity and the entire creation. Finally, how much our Orthodox faith constitutes our real and genuine identity within the pluralistic and multidimensional world of the contemporary American society?
The questions are many and so are the answers, as we contemplate the past and look towards the future which the love of God has granted to us. Regardless of the answers, however, one thing is certain: Here, a remarkably wide field of a truly great work is open to us. A work with immense possibilities and huge perspectives. A work aiming at the invigoration, cultivation and growth of a dynamic and illumined faith within the clergy and the lay people of the blessed Omogeneia which constitute the flock of our Holy Archdiocese.
To this superb work, to this wonderful effort I should like to invite today all the beloved brothers and sisters. We have to be the Church which should give whole, powerful and Genuine the witness of faith to this great country of America where God has planted us in. All of us, without exception have been called by the Lord to become conscious, true, dynamic and illumined people of faith, who, as Apostle Peter underlines, are ready and prepared to make a defense to any one who calls us to accountfor the hope that is in us ( I Peter 3, 15 ).
There is no doubt, that such a work, such an orientation, necessitates an emphasis and an intensification of the didactic, educational and cultural activities and programs of our Church. Within this perspective, it becomes imperative that we revitalize and further develop our theological and educational centers, like our Holy Cross School of Theology and our Hellenic College so that they could increase to its most and best their educational dynamism and become brilliant centers of cultivation and promotion of the values of the Orthodox faith and the Greek paideia and culture.
Within the same perspective, all the Dioceses and the Communities of our Holy Archdiocese are called to make the work of the cultivation and development of the Orthodox faith a substantive part of their activities and programs, by using all possible available means, from the traditional educational processes to the advanced communication technologies. Our target is the growth and preservation of a robust and illumined Orthodox identity as a basic characteristic of the members of our Greek Orthodox Church, particularly of our young generation, of our beloved and very promising children. This Greek Orthodox identity will enable our Greek-American faithful to stand with dignity and pride in the midst of our American fellow-citizens, respecting their religious and political beliefs within the large scheme of pluralism and globalization but, at the same time, insisting in the effort to safeguard the unique treasure which is our Orthodox faith, and to cherish our precious asset which we all acknowledge to be our Greek heritage.
The second major issue which deserves special attention is the issue of love, charity, and care for the human being. Our Orthodox Church, faithful to the Gospel of her Founder, is the Church which loves each and every human person without any limitation , discrimination or reservation, especially when he or she is in a condition of need, pain and ordeal.
Center of our faith is a God, Who is love, is the Son of God who became man in order to serve man, in order to redeem humanity and the whole of creation from evil, decay and death. Our Church following the steps of this God who is a serving God, is permanently dedicated to the care of man, serves man not only within the limits of the possible but beyond any limit. Simply, she loves beyond any measure.
All of our communities in the Archdiocese are invited to intensify and to continually optimize this excellent spirit of love and diakonia, service. Let the living mutual love and the eagerness to transcend ourselves for the sake of the other who is in need, be the distinctive sign of our Orthodox ethos. Here we are not talking only about philanthropy or offering of material help to the suffering brothers and sisters. Here we are talking about an attitude of life which encompasses our whole existence, and which means initiative and dynamism and avant-guard programs which cover conditions of sorrow, isolation and loneliness. sickness, despair, poverty, and all sorts of ordeals. Of course, our Church in America has given for many years plenty of palpable evidence for her philanthropic ethos and disposition. Today, however, we emphasize the need to intensify such an offering towards all directions. Here, there is an outstanding human dynamic and in addition tremendous possibilities due to the astonishing progress and the very impressive growth of the Omogeneia on all levels. Here, there appears the bright opportunity for the Greek Orthodox Church in America to be, with the blessings and the grace of God who is love, a truly model Church in terms of offering love to man. A Church which embraces every human being, especially the suffering ones, and offers, on a continuous basis, love, care, and tenderness to a world tormented by cruelty, violence, alienation and selfishness.
Limitless love translated into service of the suffering human being, is a basic priority, which we have as members of the Church of Christ, especially in view of the dawning third millennium. A millennium, which, in all probability, may have in store serious ordeals for humanity. It seems that the people will need strong support in order to survive and progress in the midst of huge changes in the environment, the economy, the social transformations, the biotechnology, the population explosion, the ideological confusion and the continuous technological revolution. Our Church here in the United States, as a Church of limitless love and philanthropy, as a Church destined to serve and to ,give. can play a significant role in the sacred effort to support man and the right to life and to contribute in the task of resolving the pressing problems which humanity will face in the years to come. Here, the limitless, wise and inexhaustible love of the Church becomes a strong element in the confrontation with the future, no matter what this future might be.
At this point, please allow me to indicate, and close with it, a third important issue, which in addition to the two previous ones, constitutes a basic priority for us. This is the issue of unity, concord, and unanimity of our ecclesiastical body, and of our Greek Orthodox Community in general.
Let us remember what the Lord immediately before his passion, has requested from the Father concerning the believers: keep them in your name, which you have given me, so that they may be one like us (John 17, 11)… that may they all be one; even as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they may also be one in us, so that the world bay believe that you have sent me (John 17, 21). And Paul, the Apostle to the nations, pleads with the believers to live forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Why? Because we are one body and one Spirit, just as we are called to the one hope that belongs to our call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all of us (Ephes. 4, 1-6).
This is precisely the reason why, we feel our duty to stress the need for unity and peace among us. Without fear or hesitation we are invited, beloved brothers and sisters, to set aside difference, misunderstanding or conflict that could create distances among us. Distances that shake the unity and drive away the peace of God. Nothing should jeopardize the great and divine gifts of unity and harmony, of unanimity and communal accord. We have all the presuppositions, as people and as Church to build in the highest and strongest possible degree, a unity dynamic and unbreakable so that we could be and stay one body, one soul, one mind, one will. In our case the continuation and intensification of the task for unity and peace, is the wonderful work into which God calls us today. He calls us in view of the great objectives which are being set in front of us. The future is our superb destination, and the future cannot be built but only on the basis of our unity.
A unity and harmony which must be cultivated and pursued on many levels and in many forms within our Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and our Greek-American community inn general. It must be cultivated as unity and mutual understanding among the generations, that is the young, the middle aged and the old. It must be cultivated as unity and harmonic cooperation between the clergy and the laity. It must be cultivated between the newcomers Greek-American immigrants and the Greek-Americans of the third or fourth generation. It must be cultivated as unity and unbreakable bond between the people of the Omogeneia and the people of Mother Greece.
Such multidimensional unity and concord is not exhausted within the area of our Archdiocese, but is supported and treasured as a unity integrally connected to the Mother Church, our Ecumenical Patriarchate. A unity which through our Ecumenical Patriarchate is extended to the larger circle of the Orthodox Churches in the United States, in order to embrace, finally. the world.
Today, all of us then under the wings of God, we are called to continue our creative march. To continue it, in the bright avenues in which the love and the wisdom of our God lead us. This is a march of a dynamic faith, of an unlimited love and of an unbreakable unity, a march in every step of which we will feel the need to repeat the beautiful hymn from the Book of Revelation with which we started : Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God for ever and ever. Amen
(Revelation of John 7, 2).