March 21, 2003
To the Reverend Clergy, Monastics and Faithful of the Orthodox Church in America
Dearly Beloved in the Lord:
Shortly before His death, Our Lord comforted His disciples with these words: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you” (John 14:27). Today, as the United States of America and its allies go to war with Iraq, these words take on a new and special meaning. People of faith find comfort in praying to the One Whom the Prophet Isaiah calls “the Prince of Peace,” as thousands of men and women in the military do battle.
The world today, just as in the time of Our Lord, is hardened and cold, unable to recognize the peace given to us by Our Lord, Jesus Christ, and unwilling to pursue His divine peace in its conflicts and disputes. Our Lord Himself recognized that, despite His presence in the midst of His People, conflict and war would continue to manifest themselves in the world. “Not as the world gives do I give to you,” He says. At the same time, He offers us the only comfort, the only consolation that gives a glimmer of hope in times such as ours: “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:1).
With unswerving faith and hope in His love, as Orthodox Christians we are called upon to pray and to fast all the more fervently, that the present crisis will be resolved quickly and surely, with as little bloodshed as possible. We pray that by Our Lord’s supreme goodness, that which is evil might be transformed into that which is not only good, but godly.
In the midst of this holy season of repentance, we call upon all faithful Orthodox Christians to join us in praying for those who have gone into battle—our own sons and daughters in military service, our chaplains, and especially those who have no one else to pray for them—that Our Lord will protect and watch over them, and that He will enable them to battle against those temptations which would render them hopeless and heartless. May God fill them with every desire to do good and to show compassion in the midst of their spiritually challenging ordeal.
Let us pray for our nation’s leaders, and the leaders of other nations, that they will be moved to bring about an end to the conflict in a speedy manner, focusing their attention on producing a just and lasting peace. Let us pray for the countless innocent people, Christians and Muslims alike, whose lives are, and will continue to be, torn apart by untold suffering, hunger, sickness and death. And let us especially pray for the Christians of Iraq, so often ignored by the world community or branded as an insignificant minority, yet whose lives are indeed precious in the eyes of God.
The world is a dark and sinful place and, despite our prayers, dark and sinful things happen. Nonetheless, we find comfort, hope, and strength in the words of Our Lord: “I have said this to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
With love in Christ,
Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All America and Canada
and the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America
Archbishop of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania and the Bulgarian Diocese
Archbishop of New York and New Jersey
Archbishop of Dallas and the South
Archbishop of Detroit and the Romanian Episcopate
Bishop of Chicago and the Midwest
Bishop of San Francisco and the West
Bishop of Ottawa and Canada
Bishop of Sitka, Anchorage, and Alaska