Pastoral Letter to the Clergy and Laity of the Orthodox Church in America

October 17, 2001


Dearly-beloved in the Lord:

The crisis resulting from the terrorist attacks on September 11 in the United States has revealed the worst of which humanity is capable as well as the best, the darkness which lurks in the heart of man as well as the light which illumines human hearts and lives.

On September 11, evil and hatred brought violence, death, and destruction to thousands of men and women, leaving many thousands more—children and adults, family members and friends, communities and, indeed, a whole country—in the midst of sorrow and grief, anxiety and anger. Yet, even as the people of the United States and the peoples of the world beheld with sorrow and shock the death and destruction, we all witnessed countless stories of courage and sacrifice—firefighters and police, emergency workers, nurses, doctors, priests and pastors and rabbis working to save those who could be saved, and many giving their own lives for the sake of others.

The uncertainty and anxiety brought to us by the terrorist attacks continue in the aftermath. The military campaign and bombing in Afghanistan, while careful to focus on terrorists and terrorist networks, and the regime which gives them shelter, nevertheless have brought death to innocent people as well. Before September 11, drought and famine, civil war, and countless refugees and displaced people made Afghanistan and the surrounding region the scene of the largest humanitarian crisis in the world. Now things are even worse for millions of people. In the United States we are seeing alarming episodes of anthrax contamination. The news is dominated by threats of terrorism and the war against terrorism, by threats and fears of biological and chemical attacks.

What are we called to do at a time such as this? What is the vocation of Christian men and women in a time of threat and violence? What does the Orthodox faith offer men and women who are assaulted by images of evil and hatred?

Do not delay, do not postpone, do not defer until tomorrow. Act today to show love to your family and friends—do not delay until tomorrow. Act today to reach out in compassion to the stranger in need—do not postpone until later. Act today to forgive and to ask for forgiveness—do not defer until some future day. Commit yourself today to daily prayer and to reflection on the Holy Scripture—do not wait for a better day, or a calmer time.

This outpouring of love and compassion, forgiveness and prayer, is the most powerful action we can undertake to counteract hatred and evil, fear and anxiety, death and destruction. In the midst of the present crisis, we are able, with the help of God, to overcome death by hope in the resurrection, to overcome darkness by holding high the “light of Christ which illumines all.”

Let us heed the teaching of our Holy Father Herman of Alaska: “From this day, from this hour, from this minute, let us love God above all, and do His holy will.”

With love in Jesus Christ, our only Hope in the face of adversity,

Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All America and Canada

And the members of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America:

Archbishop of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania

Archbishop of New York and New Jersey

Archbishop of Dallas and the South

Archbishop of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania

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 Baltimore