NEW YORK, NY [OCA Communications]—His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, was one of nine hierarchs to sign a joint lenten encyclical issued by the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas [SCOBA].
The complete text of the SCOBA encyclical, slated to be read in parishes on Sunday, February 22, 2004, the eve of the first day of Great Lent, reads as follows.
“On this day, the Sunday of Cheesefare, we arrive once again at the threshold of the great and sacred season of Holy Lent. As Orthodox Christians we have been given the blessed opportunity to enter into an intense period of worship, prayer, fasting, and philanthropy that will direct our lives in the path of salvation and draw us into deeper communion with God. In addition, through our observance of Lent in our contemporary world, we will offer a witness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the one who overcomes the darkness of evil and sin and illumines hearts with truth and life.
“It is also on this day that we, the Hierarchs of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas, call upon all of our Orthodox faithful to observe Mission Sunday. This annual emphasis gives special recognition to the work of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center [OCMC], the foreign missions agency of SCOBA. Headquartered in St. Augustine, Florida, the ministry of the Mission Center has grown over the course of three decades into the active presence of missionaries and programs in over 19 countries. Through evangelistic and philanthropic efforts that follow in the Apostolic Tradition of the Church, the programs of OCMC are expanding the teaching and preaching of our faith, building new churches, supporting indigenous priests, and furthering the great and mighty acts that are being accomplished by God in this world and in the lives of those who believe. Our substantive support of this global work of missions is linked directly to our identity as Orthodox Christians. In his first letter, the Apostle Peter expands our understanding of this identity by calling us the faithful, ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people’ [1 Peter 2:9].
“It is evident that our identity as Orthodox Christians and our presence in this world as ‘a chosen race and a royal priesthood,’ as ‘God’s own people,’ includes a sacred commission to share truth, faith, and life. In fact, the Apostle Peter affirms that as Christians we have been chosen for a purpose - ‘in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.’ We have been chosen to proclaim. Through our calling from darkness to light, from death to life, we have been given a divine identity that is linked inseparably to the proclamation of the Gospel. We know and have experienced the mighty acts of our Lord, and by His divine presence in our midst we are compelled to be His witnesses in our homes, communities, nation, and throughout the world through our support of missions.
“As we begin this holy Lenten season in prayer and fasting, we exhort you to intensify your efforts to share our Orthodox faith. We ask you to give generously to the work of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center so that through our foreign mission efforts more people will be called from darkness to light. Further, may we continue our labors together in this nation by fulfilling our calling to proclaim Jesus Christ, the One who will lead us through Lent and through life into His marvelous light.”
Other hierarchs signing the encyclical included His Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios, SCOBA Chairman, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America; His Eminence, Metropolitan Philip, SCOBA Vice Chairman, Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America; His Eminence, Metropolitan Christopher, SCOBA Secretary, Serbian Orthodox Church in the US and Canada; His Eminence, Metropolitan Nicholas of Amissos, SCOBA Treasurer, Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese in the USA; His Eminence, Archbishop Nicolae, Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in America and Canada; His Eminence, Metropolitan Joseph, Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Church; His Eminence, Metropolitan Constantine, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA; and His Grace, Bishop Ilia of Philomelion, Albanian Orthodox Diocese of America.