Orthodox Observer - September 1996

Arrival Message of Archbishop Spyridon at Kennedy Airport

For me, as an American, it is a special joy to return to the United States to guide and serve the Greek Orthodox Church in America. But as I greet you for the first time as your new Archbishop, my joy is tempered by the thought of the great responsibilities that have been entrusted to me, and I beseech you all for your support, for your understanding, and for your prayers.

I am uplifted to have alongside me my brother in Christ, Metropolitan Ioakeim, the representative of His All Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, who will participate at my enthronement on Saturday. His All Holiness sends his patriarchal blessing and fatherly love to the Orthodox faithful of the Archdiocese, and his warm greetings to all the people of this country, the United States, which he looks forward to visiting in the fall of next year to celebrate the 75th anniversary of our Archdiocese.

It is also a great joy for me to begin my ministry in this great city, New York, the gateway to the freedom and opportunity that this nation represents to the whole world. I am mindful that this most important journey of my ministry began in Constantinople, the captial of world Orthodoxy; paused in Athens, the capital of western civilization, and culminates in another capital — the capital of the world, as Mayor Giuliani calls it —New York City.

New York is the seat of our holy Archdiocese. I do not use the word holy lightly. We call the region around the sacred City of Jerusalem the Holy Land because it was there that Jesus Christ and the prophets walked and preached the message of God.

Wherever this message takes root is hallowed ground, and while it may seem that this frenzied metropolis is anything but holy, I know that there is great faith, love and compassion in this city, and I look forward to seeing it become the center of a new, vibrant and embracing Orthodox Church.

Our Church is now firmly established, not only in this city and this nation, but throughout the whole continent. Our communities have become an integral part of American society, and are accepted and admired by the other religious and ethnic groups that came to these shores before us.

We owe the acceptance and the respect we enjoy in the United States to the sacrifices of our parents and grandparents, who worked so hard to earn an honored place in American society and to prepare their children to seize the opportunities available in this great nation.

As the Chruch grew and matured under Archbishops Alexander, Michael, Athenagoras, and my beloved elder brother, lakovos, its mission expanded to the larger community in which it is planted, promoting human rights, seeking protection for our brethren in more dangerous parts of the world, and embracing new followers of our Faith.

Our mission is to preserve the best that our parents brought here from the old world, bind it together with the best that they found in this new land, and infuse it all with the new commandment our Lord Jesus Christ, that we love one another.

With God's blessing, and your help, I will do everything in my power to carry out that mission; work with you to strengthen our communities; expand the teaching of our values, traditions and our rich Hellenic culture to our children; make our presence more keenly felt in American society, not by increasing our demands, but by expanding our contributions; and show all Orthodox Christians in America the relevance of our faith to our times.

Arriving here at JFK International Airport, I am reminded of President Kennedy's moving inaugural speech some 35 years ago, when he announced that the torch had been passed "to a new generation of Americans." In my election as Archbishop, the torch of Orthodoxy in America is being passed to a new generation as well, born in this new land, and we are committed to see its flame burn brightly in the new millennium and unto the ages of ages.

I thank you for your warm greeting this afternoon. I look forward to working with you, and all our brothers and sisters throughout America, in the service of the Lord. We have much to do, but as St. Paul reminds us: "All things work together for good to those who love God."

May His love be with you always.

[ Orthodox Observer, Vol. 61 - No. 1118, September 1996, p. _ ]