Tuesday, September 11, 2001
To all the clergy and laity of the Holy Orthodox Church throughout America,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation which we ourselves are consoled by God. (2 Cor. 1:3-4).
In the spirit of these God-inspired words of St. Paul, we address this letter to you in this time of great affliction. As we are all painfully aware, our nation has experienced one of the most difficult days in its history. The death of over 5,000 of our fellow citizens and citizens of over 80 other countries on September 11th, 2001 is a profound tragedy which will be forever etched in our memories.
For many of us, the violent events of that day have deep personal consequences which will endure throughout this life. The families and friends of the victims are also themselves innocent victims and are grieving over the loss of their loved ones. The consequences of terrorism in New York, Washington, and Shanksville will continue to affect each of us and our national life in the days, the months and the years ahead, and will cause many questions to trouble our souls.
As Orthodox Christians, we have the resources available to provide answers for our own souls and to strengthen those around us. Putting our trust in the God of love and hope and reconciliation, we receive comfort in knowing that the risen Christ has overcome death and that the Evil One does not have the final word. God has the final word, and He is always with us. Yes, God is always with us in both our joys and in our sorrows. Resting in God’s love we can share the strength that this brings us with those who are troubled and even terrified by the threat of evil.
Confronted by this evil, we have been overwhelmed by the example of the good men and women who have put themselves at risk to save, to protect, and to heal the lives of others. Think of the fire-fighters, police, clergy, counselors, doctors, nurses, emergency medical personnel and others who placed their own lives in jeopardy. Indeed, we now know that many knowingly gave their lives to save the lives of their fellow citizens. Their sacrifice reminds us of the words of our Lord: No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’ s friends. (John 15:13) We can also point to the profound generosity, both spiritual and material, which Americans have shown in response to overwhelming human grief, suffering and need.
As Orthodox hierarchs, we are acutely mindful that we are mandated by our theological vision, our spiritual convictions, and our pastoral duties to look deeply into the meaning of the challenges faced by our government and our political leaders and representatives. We believe that the United States and the international community must seek the moral and political wisdom to build a world in which justice and tolerance and peace are established. All the disenfranchised and impoverished people of the world, must have the same opportunities we have for a good and productive life.
For our part, the response to all fear must be our continued growth in the love of God and one another. To work for justice, tolerance, and peace will give testimony to the overcoming of fear. We must continue to pray and care for one another, to be compassionate and generous. We must give thanks to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who comforts us in our times of difficulties and strengthens us with his love. We must trust in Him who is the help of the helpless, the hope of the hopeless, the Savior of those cast about, the haven of those who are lost, and the physician of our souls and bodies. (Liturgy of St. Basil)
Let us continue to remember in our prayers those who died on September 11, 2001. May our good and loving Lord grant rest to the innocent victims in a place of light and a place of peace, and may their memory be eternal. We ask that our parish priests offer memorial prayers on October 21, 2001 to remember those who lost their lives as victims of the terrorist attacks, and as courageous and self-sacrificial rescue workers.
Remembering the God of consolation, may we offer the families and friends who have lost loved ones comfort in this time of sorrow. Remembering the God of healing, may we enable those who have been wounded whether in body or in spirit to find strength and assistance. Remembering the God of compassion, may we be compassionate to one another in our affliction. To offer consolation, healing and compassion, each one of us needs to make time available to be with those in need.
Let us be especially concerned with the well-being of our children and young people during these uncertain times. As they seek greater security and care, may we respond to them as loving parents, teachers, counselors and priests.May all our public servants, and those who protect us and defend us in the military, be blessed with prudence and courage both now and in the days ahead.
As Orthodox Christians and as citizens of this nation, we are challenged to reassert our dependency upon God who is the source of life and happiness; to reaffirm our relationships with one another as well as our devotion to the common good of our neighborhood, our city and our nation; to renew our commitment to the essential values of this country.
May we all receive from the Father of all mercy and the God of consolation the strength and the wisdom to meet the challenges and needs of the days to come.
To Christ our Lord be glory, together with his eternal Father and the all holy, good, and life-creating Spirit, now and forever. Amen
+ Archbishop DEMETRIOS, Chairman
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
+ Metropolitan Theodosius
Orthodox Church in America
+ Metropolitan PHILIP, Vice Chairman
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
+ Metropolitan Joseph, Locum Tenens
Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in America & Canada
+ Metropolitan Joseph, Secretary
Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Church
+ Metropolitan Christopher
Serbian Orthodox Church in the US & Canada
+ Metropolitan NICHOLAS, Treasurer
American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of the USA
+ Metropolitan Constantine
Orthodox Ukrainian Church of U.S.A.