“You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Luke 18:22)
IOCC SUNDAY- 24 November 2002
To the Most Reverend Clergy, Venerable Monastics and Devout Faithful of the Holy Orthodox Churches in the Americas.
Dearly Beloved in Christ Jesus:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
In this extremely powerful passage from the Gospel of St. Luke, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ conveys to us quite emphatically the tremendous importance of helping the poor. We Orthodox Christians in North America, in so many ways, are like the rich young ruler, who asked Jesus the question which provoked the answer given in this passage. We live in the most prosperous place and in the most prosperous times in recorded history. At the same time, we share these times with teeming masses of people suffering from crushing poverty, personal humiliation and unprecedented need.
Does not God’s love for us, and for the poor throughout the world, compel us to “distribute to the poor?” Can we not unburden ourselves of at least a portion of our material goods in service to the least of Christ’s brethren? Though we may not be able to achieve the ideal and sell all that we have, we must, as followers of Christ, do all that is possible to alleviate the hunger and the pain of all who suffer on this small planet that God created for us.
This year, dear brothers and sisters, we mark the 10th anniversary of the establishment of International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), as the official humanitarian aid agency of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA). The mission of IOCC is to respond to the call of our Lord to minister to those who are suffering and are in need throughout the world, sharing with them God’s gifts of food, shelter, economic self-sufficiency and hope. Over the course of 10 years, IOCC has distributed more than $140 million in aid in 21 countries. In the year ahead, IOCC will continue its response to the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, and expand the scope of its services here at home.
On this Sunday before Thanksgiving, in the midst of our feast of plenty, we, your Archpastors, invite all Orthodox Christians to manifest the unity of Christ and the love of God. As we share this Encyclical message in every Orthodox parish, we ask you to join us in supporting the work of IOCC. We urge you to learn more about this agency and to share the message with your family and your community. Let us exchange things earthly for things heavenly. Through IOCC, let us join together to respond to the call of Jesus Christ to help those in need.
Your Fervent Intercessors before Almighty God,
+Archbishop DEMETRIOS, Chairman
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
Orthodox Church in America
+Metropolitan PHILIP, Vice Chairman
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in America and Canada
+Metropolitan CHRISTOPHER, Secretary
Serbian Orthodox Church in the USA and Canada
Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Church
+Metropolitan NICHOLAS OF Amissos
American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese in the USA
Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA
Albanian Orthodox Diocese of America