[ November 17, 1997 ]

Video Message from Archbishop Spyridon
at the conclusion of Patriarch Bartholomew's visit to the US

When His All Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, departed from America after his historic visit to our Archdiocese, he praised America as a great country, as a land of democracy and freedom, as a nation of progress and peace. America is indeed endowed with such blessings.

His All Holiness also praised our Church, as a community of faithful stewards of our many blessings. Indeed, you have been faithful, both individually and together as the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. For this reason, along with His All Holiness, I am so very proud of all of you.

This is why I wanted to take this moment to talk to you about our Church in America, and about our freedoms and our responsibilities. Our sojourn as Orthodox Christians here in the United States has been given many advantages, especially when compared to other countries where Orthodox Christians live. Here we aren't persecuted for our Faith; here we don't lack the material resources needed to build and maintain our churches; here our preaching isn't censored; here the training of our clergy isn't forbidden. Such advantages are indeed wonderful. But, my friends, such advantages also bring obligations.

Let me highlight just three of these. Our country is known around the world for upholding religious freedom. We ourselves share in this freedom, while others around the world do not. Our obligation is to take advantage of this religious freedom for ourselves, and to champion this freedom for others. It was precisely for this reason that I gladly accepted to represent the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese on the State Department's Advisory Committee for Religious Freedom Abroad. It was an obligation.

Our country is also known the world over for its many opportunities. However, many people, here and abroad, do not share these opportunities. Our responsibility, then, is to help others in whatever way we can. This is one reason the Archdiocese has committed to helping children across the country through the America's Promise Volunteerism Campaign initiated by the White House. Again, it was simply an obligation.

Finally, our country is known as well for its ethnic diversity, and it is celebrated for the way in which we peacefully coexist with one another. Likewise, our Orthodox Church transcends ethnic boundaries. What is our obligation here? While we should proudly celebrate our own ethnic background, at the same time -as the Church- we must reach out to all people. This is, my dear friends, an obligation.

In other words, these advantages, or blessings, require us -individually and together as members of the Body of Christ- to maintain our faith with vigor. They require us to share our faith with enthusiasm, and with thanks for the freedom to be able to do so. And they require us to live our faith, at every moment of every day, whether it be by giving to charities, comforting the broken-hearted, or participating in the liturgical services offered in our parishes.

When His All Holiness was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor given by this country, he accepted it, not only as an individual champion of human rights, religious freedom, philanthropy, and democracy, but on behalf of all Greek Orthodox Christians, whose faith inspires, proclaims, and compels adherence to these same ideals. Therefore, let us be thankful for these blessings, but at the same time, let us also continually strive to fulfill the obligations that come with them.