The Church Messenger - August 25, 1996



"Behold, I and the children which God has given me"

(Heb. 2:13).

Beloved brothers, sons and daughters in the Lord:

I wholeheartedly and paternally greet you for the first time as your new Archbishop and Spiritual Father from the Phanar, the Venerable Center of World Orthodoxy, having been elected unanimously by the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the eminent Archiepiscopal Throne of America.

I now offer to you my initial archpastoral letter with fear of God, with faith and with love. With fear of God, for I am fully aware of the awesome responsibility placed upon my shoulders. With faith in God, for only faith in Him can strengthen and sustain my ministry to you. With love, a deep and abiding love for the Church in America, for it was here that my eyes first saw the light of day, and I was nurtured in my childhood years.

It is with love indeed that I write this letter to each and every one of you, whom God in His infinite mercy has seen fit to place under my pastoral care and spiritual protection, for, as we know, “God is love” (I Jn 4:8), and in the vineyard of God there can only be love. Therefore, in the vineyard entrusted to us, the Church of America, there can only be room for love of God and love for one another.

I accept the mantle of responsibility for shepherding this highly esteemed Eparchy of the Ecumenical Throne filled only with the mystery of God's love. “We love Him, because He first loved us” (I Jn 4:19). It is to an active ministry of love that I fully commit myself without reservation, without apprehension, and without distinction. I pray that you as well, beloved sons and daughters in Christ, dedicate your talents and efforts first and foremost to the flourishing of this love within the embrace of the Church, by placing its works high on the lamp stand for all to see (cfr. Mt 5:15).

Where there is love, there can only be unity. Where there is love, there is no room for factions or division. In the Garden of Gethsemane, shortly before His passion, Christ prayed with great agony to God the Father that we be one as He and the Father are one (cfr. Jn 17:21) — one Body, one Community, one Church with one Faith and one Hope (cfr. Eph 4:3-6).

I come to you, my dear spiritual children, seeking to further strengthen the unity of the Body of Christ to which we belong, and which is so preciously cherished by all. We, hierarchs, priests and devoted laypeople, are all co-workers in the great mystery of the Church. Of course, as St. Paul writes, our ministries are diverse: some of us are called to be the hands, while others the feet, yet others the eyes (cfr I Cor 12:15-16). Together, however, we comprise the one undivided Body of the living Christ. United, we are the Church in America.

With these thoughts, I stand ready to walk with you into the third millennium of Christianity. Know that we start on our journey together with a remarkable past of approximately 75 years. We are beneficiaries of great spiritual leaders: Archbishop Alexander, the first and founding Archpastor in the Americas; Archbishop Athenagoras, later Patriarch, who ranks among the great churchmen of this era; Archbishop Michael, our beloved teacher and spiritual father, and, finally, Archbishop Iakovos who, after 37 years of devoted spiritual ministry, has bequeathed to us a valuable legacy upon which we must continue to build.

Our vision for the future is clear, because we travel in the light of the Phanar, which for 2,000 years as never waned or been extinguished. The Great Church of Christ is the beacon which burns brightly for each succeeding generation of Orthodox throughout the world. We are children of this ancient legacy of self-sacrificial love — the love of the Holy Mother Church which continues to sustain and unite us even as we approach the third millennium. The Ecumenical Patriarchate is our source of ecclesial being.

We are blessed to live in a time when the venerable Ecumenical Throne is adorned by a servant of God such as Patriarch Bartholomew. As I take on my new responsibilities, under the shelter of our Mother Church, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, let us remember that His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew shall be our inspiration and our unwavering support.

In closing, I embrace each and every one of you, young and old, weak and strong, rich and poor, and from all walks of life. I pray that the All-Loving Lord, inspire you to be always loving and united members of His Holy Church.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen."

(I Cor 16:23-24)


Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

[ The Church Messenger - August 25, 1996 - p. 3 ]


* Message sent from Constantinople on August 2, 1996.