September 23, 2012
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,
In our regular gatherings of worship, fellowship, and ministry, we as Greek Orthodox Christians emphasize the necessity of remembrance. We do so in our commemorations of Martyrs and Saints and of significant events in the life of the Church. We remember our fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters who have gone before us in the faith. We mark those many places in our heritage where our faith and culture, our identity and communities endured tremendous challenges, tragedy, and triumph.
On this occasion we do this in our commemoration of the Asia Minor Holocaust. This Sunday has been chosen because the month of September in the year 1922 was the peak of years of massacres and forced expulsions. During this month of 1922, the Greeks of Smyrna were brutally attacked, their homes, businesses, and churches burned, and thousands were forced to flee with limited hopes of escape. This specific tragedy of immense proportions was part of a long series of similar tragedies inflicted upon the Greeks and other Christian populations of Asia Minor. Millions were forced to leave their ancestral homes. Through mass executions and the constant threat of violence, their security and well-being was disrupted and their freedom destroyed.
We commemorate this Holocaust today in our parishes because we share a heritage of faith and culture with so many who died or endured this horrible tragedy and because the impact of it continues today in the lives of families, communities, and nations. We also remember as Orthodox Christians, as people of faith, that we have a vital role in addressing the injustices in our world. Following the example of the Apostles, Martyrs, and Saints, we have a calling to recognize the challenges of our human condition, speak to the ills of our world that destroy life and peace, and bring solace to those who are the victims of hate and violence. Ultimately, we look to Christ who revealed grace and forgiveness under the worst conditions, who condemned evil while teaching peace and love, and who showed compassion for the ordeals and tragedies of the people by offering healing and salvation.
In this spirit and in proper recognition of Smyrna and the Asia Minor tragedy, I ask the parishes of our Holy Archdiocese to observe this Sunday, September 23, as a day of commemoration of the Asia Minor Holocaust and to offer prayers of remembrance for those who perished and for the many whose lives were radically altered. I also encourage our communities to plan and conduct special events that increase awareness of this and other similar, repugnant acts and that try to find peaceful means for resolving conflict and nurturing tolerance and understanding in our modern world. May we also continue to be diligent in our responsibility to remember our past, to have compassion for our fellow human beings around the world, to speak the truth in love, and to seek the blessings of life, security, and freedom for all.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America