Protocol Number 182/15
October 28, 2015
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,
Our annual commemoration of OXI Day this year marks the 75th anniversary of a heroic stand against the forces of Fascism and an affirmation of the values that are essential for human life and well-being. On October 28, 1940, faced with an ultimatum from Benito Mussolini to allow the Italian army to occupy Greece, the Prime Minister of Greece Ioannis Metaxas and the people of Greece responded with a resounding “NO.” Even before the time to respond to the ultimatum had expired, Italian forces began entering Greece over the border from Albania. However, in the spirit of the reply of “NO,” Greek forces resisted fiercely, keeping the Axis forces out of Greece for almost six months.
This stand was a critical event as it slowed the advance of the Axis powers and provided time for Allied forces to be better prepared for the conflicts to come in the Mediterranean. The resistance also necessitated the reinforcement of Italian forces by the German army, delaying the Nazi invasion into Russia into a brutal and fatal winter. The response of “NO” and the stand made by the people of Greece has been recognized as one of the decisive events that determined the course of World War II.
This year’s commemoration of OXI Day has special significance, as it is one of many anniversaries in the coming years for the events of World War II and a very challenging era for many people and nations. It stands near the beginning of these events as a testimony of the bravery that was shown and the sacrifices offered by millions around the world to defeat tyranny and preserve liberty. It is a celebration of the resolve of the leaders and people of Greece, who deliberately and courageously chose to resist the advance of Fascism. It is a witness of the priority of standing for our values in the face of adversity.
The heroism of this stand is legendary. Winston Churchill even remarked, “We knew that Greeks were fighting like heroes; from now on we shall say that the heroes fight like Greeks.” The legacy of OXI Day and the stand of the people of Greece also inspire us to affirm our values in the midst of a challenging and troubled world. Tyrannical forces that are motivated by evil with no respect for life or peace are destroying communities and causing hundreds of thousands to flee for safety. Some are rejecting the values of freedom and especially religious liberty for the sake of control and maintaining authority through fear. Ideologies of hatred and violence are threatening people of faith and their communities that are built upon a foundation of love and hope.
On this 75th anniversary of OXI Day, may we offer a beautiful and faithful witness of the courage of our forbearers. Through events in our parishes and throughout our Holy Archdiocese and Greek American community, may we share the story and honor the memory of those who stood bravely and said “NO” to tyranny, of those who offered their lives to defend Greece and liberty, and of those who suffered and struggled through the years of Nazi occupation that followed. May we also be inspired in our commemoration to protect and affirm our values in the face of adversity. We have been blessed in so many ways by Almighty God. We are benefactors of His grace and of a heritage of courage, faith, and hope. May we cherish and preserve all that is true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8) and all that sustains and fulfills the abundant life we have in Christ.
With paternal love in Him,
Archbishop of America