This year as we prepare to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace, we behold around the world our brothers and sisters in Christ suffering violent and constant persecution. Hierarchs, clergy and monastics are murdered, kidnapped and suffer unspeakable indignities. Communities are ravaged and churches destroyed. And we hear far too few voices calling for even their preservation, much less justice.
We Archons have made our position very clear. We will not be silent, nor will we watch our brothers and sisters be extinguished in the very lands that gave birth to our Orthodox Christian Faith. We have just concluded our Second International Archon Conference on Religious Freedom in Berlin. Our 2013 Athenagoras Human Rights Award honoree, “Sixty Minutes” just last week did a special report on the plight of the Coptic Church. And this follows on their extraordinary reportage in 2009 on the struggle of our Holy Mother Church and the sacred person of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, and their revelatory piece on the Christian Community in the Holy Land in 2012. As Archons, we can be proud that our Order served to motivate and facilitate this media coverage. But we must do more.
Our Lord Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem, but now a wall of exclusion is ghettoizing what very little is left there of the Church He founded. As a Child, Joseph and His Mother took Jesus to Egypt in order to protect him, and now we see the venerable Coptic Church of Egypt threatened with its very existence. Our salvation was accomplished on His Holy Cross and in the Life-giving Tomb in Jerusalem, where every day our Patriarchate suffers indignities. We were first called Christians in Antioch (Acts 11:26) and it was on the road to Damascus that the Apostle of the Nations saw the light (Acts 9), but civil war and religious hatred threaten the survival of that ancient Patriarchate. And we know perhaps best of all the continuous struggle of the Mother Church of Constantinople, in whose bosom the Seven Ecumenical Councils formulated the essence of the Christian Faith for all time, and where for over forty years Her beloved Halki – where these dogmas were taught with faith and love – remains forcibly shuttered.
My brother Archons and friends, the Christmas Carol commends us to “Go tell it on the mountain!” Indeed that Christ is born, but we must speak the truth not only in love, but also loudly! He suffers still from hatred, violence, intolerance, vices and “the heartache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.” Let us not be afraid to lift our voices. Let us stand up for what is right in the face of what is so very wrong. Let us glorify the Prince of Peace by waging peace in His Name around the world.
Maria and my entire family join me in wishing all Archons and their beloved families a joyous and peace-filled Christmas, and we express our abiding and profound gratitude to our spiritual fathers,
His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew,
His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America,
the venerable Metropolitans of the Holy Eparchial Synod and to
Fr. Alex Karloutsos and our Brother Archons for their devotion to
the Mother Church of Constantinople.
Anthony J. Limberakis, MD