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 Day and Afternoon Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America
My Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
On July 4th, we gather as families and communities to celebrate the independence of our nation. We affirm on this important day the values of freedom and liberty that have characterized our national spirit for over two centuries. As we celebrate this national holiday, we are granted the occasion to consider that freedom and liberty are not only treasured values, but are essential and universal conditions for cultivating loving relationships with God and with others.
Our cultural and religious legacy as Greek Orthodox Christians reminds us of our sacred responsibility to ensure that all people have access to the same fruits and blessings that we enjoy as citizens and residents of a free nation. In our communities and parishes, we meet this responsibility through upholding our commitments to philanthropy, through cultivating openness in our hearts toward strangers in our midst, through our unconditional love for our neighbors, and through our true worship of God, Who created all human beings in His perfect image and likeness.
Seen in this light, our July 4th celebrations are opportunities to consider freedom and liberty not only as inalienable rights of all men and women, but as treasured gifts which God has lovingly given to all persons. Our festivities are also opportunities to grasp the meaning of freedom in its ultimate sense, a sentiment expressed by St. Paul that where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17). More than attributes of a political independence, freedom and liberty are conditions of the human soul, fruits that blossom as our hearts struggle to be liberated from the passions of this world and as we grow in our recognition of the presence of God within one another. This is the essence of our Orthodox Christian heritage and witness, an indispensable element of the fabric of our American nation.
On this Day of Independence, I pray that God may deepen our understanding of freedom and liberty in all their dimensions, that our love for Him and for one another may be also intensified. May His peace and abundant blessings abide in your hearts forever.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America