Your Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America,
Your Eminence Metropolitan Nathanael of Chicago,
Venerable Hierarchs and devout Clergy,
Honorable Archons and dearest children in the Lord,
With the grace and good-will of our merciful God, who ever bestows upon His Church and our People His saving gifts and every blessing from above, we are present here among you with our honorable entourage. We rejoice at meeting you face to face during this festive Doxology, for your hospitality, for your sincere respect toward our person, which is in the end a respect for the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the supreme institution of Orthodoxy and our People.
We thank you wholeheartedly, beloved brother Metropolitan Nathanael, for your kind words. We congratulate you on all that you have achieved for your sacred and large Metropolis of Chicago during the brief time since your election, as you have served your Metropolis with holy zeal, dynamism and much dedication. You should never forget, of course, that whatever we do is the work of the Lord, which is accomplished through us in the communion of the Church. Whatever we are able to achieve, we do so “through Him who loved us” (Rm 8.37), adhering to His heavenly commandments.
Our faith in Christ, the incarnate pre-eternal Word of God, is the saving response to our ultimate questions. There can be no complete fulfilment of human existence without Christ as “the way, the truth, and the life” (see Jn 14.6). Christ calls us to proclaim His Gospel, to become “the salt of the earth,” to place our lamp “on a stand,” to become a “neighbor” for all those who “fall upon thieves” in order to support the least of our brothers and sisters, in accordance with His words: “As you do it to one of these the least of my brothers and sisters, you do it to me” (Mt 25.40). In this spirit, our predecessor St. Gregory the Theologian declares: “Until the end of time, let us visit Christ, let us care for Christ, let us feed Christ, let us clothe Christ, let us welcome Christ, let us honor Christ.” (PG 35.909)
Never in its historical journey has the Church identified itself with introversion; and never has occasional introversion benefitted the Church. Remaining closed and indifferent to history and the adventures of human freedom is not the correct interpretation – either theologically or ecclesiologically – of the description of the Church as “not of this world.” As rightly said, the Church is not “the adversary of history,” but “its liberator.” In order to act as a liberating and transformative power, the Church must always approach and understand contemporary society and culture, within which its life unfolds and with regard to which it must assess challenges and favorable perspectives.
Your Eminence Metropolitan Nathanael, you know very well the cultural context within which you are called to exercise your spiritual and pastoral work. You know the existential pursuits and problems of our faithful, and especially our youth, about whom the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church (in Crete, 2016) decreed that “they are not simply the ‘future’ of the Church, but the active expression of the Church’s life in this world for the love of God and the love of humankind.” (Encyclical, paragraph 7).
The divine values of our Orthodox tradition, beloved hierarchs and children, today comprise an alternative proposal of life for the world; and at their center lies the “common freedom” and “the communion of persons.” The “culture of personhood” is life as thanksgiving, the eucharistic relationship with creation, the joy of life as relationship, and the experience of freedom as love; it is the peace of Christ, which is more than merely spiritual peace, but also external and social peace, the transcendence of violence and aggression in human and social relations. The Orthodox Church prays for the peace “that surpasses all understanding” (Phil. 4.7) and “for the peace of the whole world.” Above all, the Orthodox way of life entails, in the life of the Church, the foretaste of the splendor of the Last Times, as well as the hope of eternity, without which our life and deeds are characterized by vainglory.
With these sentiments and thoughts, dear Brother, we express once again our deep gratitude for your warm welcome and boundless love, as we pray that the Founder of the Church may bless your ministry for the benefit of the people entrusted to you by the Mother Church, and we convey our paternal greeting and Patriarchal blessing to all of them, praising their faithfulness to the traditions of our Church and their respect toward the Ecumenical Throne. May the giver of all gifts, our Lord and Savior, protect all of you and direct your steps on the straight path!