- On Tuesday October 9, 2001 at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, a Vespers service was held for the Orthodox Christian Community of the United Nations. Sponsored by the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops (SCOBA) and the Standing Conference of Oriental Orthodox Churches (SCOOCH), the service was the first of what is planned to be an annual event for those in the UN community.
Hosted by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, the event saw the participation of hierarchs and clergy from both the Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches in the New York Metropolitan area.
His Eminence celebrated Daily Vespers with clergy from the various Orthodox jurisdictions within SCOBA: Serbian, Greek, Antiochian, Ukrainian, and representing the Orthodox Church in America, Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko, Dean of St Vladimir’s Seminary.
Following Vespers, the program began with an introduction by the V Rev Leonid Kishkovsky, Assistant to the Chancellor for Interchurch Relations and Ecumenical Witness. Father Leonid introduced the hierarchs seated on the solea, both Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox, including His Beatitude Metropolitan Theodosius, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America.
Fr. Kishkovsky noted that this event was a significant milestone: It was the first Orthodox service for the UN community and it was the first common iniative sponsored by the hierarchs of SCOBA and SCOOCH and the joint commission they have established. Furthermore, the event came exactly four weeks after the violent and shocking terrorist attacks on the us, reminding us all how important is a peaceful dialogue among civilizations - a dialogue in which the Orthodox churches, living in very different circumstances around the world, are called to participate.
Among the Ambassadors attending the event, two were invited to offer their remarks, His Excellency, Movses Abelian, Ambassador to the United Nations from Armenia and the Honorable John Negroponte, Ambassador of the United States of America to the United Nations.
His Excellency, Mr Abelian spoke about the importance of civilization, how the current state of affairs is an opportunity for us to reaffirm the ability of humanity to develop and grow through the offering of freedom and the development of civilization. Reflecting on the tenth anniversary of Armenia as a nation and being a member nation of the world community since 1992, Mr Abelian remarked that while his nation was young, “it’s civilization is extremely old, witnessing to the 1700th Anniversary of Christianity” in his nation.
The Honorable John Negroponte, Ambassador of the US to the United Nations spoke about the important role we possess today within history. The role and the understanding that it is our responsibility to not only insure self-defense for our country, but also to be able to protect human rights for our world. By doing this we will not only insure the continuation of our nation, but of humanity.
After the two ambassadors spoke, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios reflected on the significance of the service for the UN community, pointing out that diplomats and the UN use their possibilities and resources for the common good, and the Orthodox Churches and their bishops, clergy and people use their resources and possibilities also for the common good. He pointed out that the event was planned long before the terrorist attacks on September 11, and that now the gathering was occurring in the aftermath of that day, and in a situation of war. There was much violence, death, and evil shown on September 11 and its aftermath. At the same time there was much goodness, generosity, and courage. From ancient times, the Archbishop said, Ambassadors and Emissaries were considered sacred persons, because they bore witness to the desire for peace.
Archbishop Demetrios reminded those from the UN community that, while the evening’s prayer service was concluded, the prayers must continue, and those within the Church would continue to pray for them, and he asked them to do the same.
After a recessional from the Cathedral, a reception was held in the Cathedral Hall where refreshments were served.
Among those sitting on the solea with those already mentioned, Metropolitan Joseph of the Bulgarian Archdiocese, Archbishop Vsevolod and Bishop Yuri of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Bishop Dimitrios of the Greek Archdiocese, and Bishop Antoun, representing Metropolitan Philip of the Antiochian Archdiocese. From the Oriental Orthodox Churches, Bishop David of the Coptic Church, Archbishop Karin of the Syrian Church and Archbishop Khajag Barsamian and Bishop Viken of the Armenians.
The Choir from St Vladimir’s Seminary, under the direction of David Drillock, sang the responses during Vespers. Archbishop Demetrios personally thanked Mr Drillock and the choir for participating in the service and commented, “their participation has put joy into our hearts with their prayer in song.”
Those in attendance also included many clergy and faithful from the New York area representing Churches from both the Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches.