His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros, Keynote Address for Intercessory Prayer Service for Ukraine – Messages
His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America
Intercessory Prayer Service for Ukraine
March 9, 2022
Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Volodymyr
New York City
Your Eminence, Timothy Cardinal Dolan,
Dear Rabbi Joseph Potasnik,
Metropolitan Anthony of Hierapolis,
Your Eminences, Excellencies and Graces,
Ladies and Gentlemen, Representatives of the Diplomatic Corps,
Honored members of ecumenical and interreligious communities,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Dear sisters and brothers,
Over the past two weeks, the world has watched Russia launch an unjust and violent invasion of Ukraine. In these turbulent times, we sincerely pray for those whose lives are affected by this brutal assault. The consequences of the current humanitarian tragedy are being felt throughout Ukraine, in neighboring countries and around the world.
The violence in the world is a dark sign of our fallen reality and the imperfection of our human experience, enslaved by the brokenness of our hearts disfigured by our estrangement from the presence of God. Violence is a sin in complete contradiction with the vocation for which men and women were created: to carry the supreme inheritance of the image of God, while growing in his likeness. Therefore, no war can ever be called “holy” or even “just” in an attempt to rationalize it as morally acceptable. Today’s bloodshed in Ukraine must rest on the shoulders of Vladimir Putin, who is risking world peace for his own selfish political agenda.
We are witnessing an immense tragedy of human suffering: the targeting of civilians, the murder and terror, and the death of innocent people, especially children. Yet we know that Ukrainians and Russians are both children fed from the same breast. They are brothers and sisters in Christ. How is it possible that such a fratricide takes place in the Holy Land of Kyivan Rus’?
Ten days ago, His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew said: We “…beg to end the war now. Immediately stop any act of violence, anything that spreads pain and death. May reason prevail, love of neighbor, reconciliation and solidarity, the light of the Risen One, the gift of life.
In this same spirit, we join in these sentiments expressed by His All Holiness and we urge the faithful: to offer prayers and tangible support to all the Ukrainian people — those of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and those of Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Patriarchate of Moscow — for those of the Ukrainian Catholic and Jewish communities, for those who belong to a religion and for those who have no religion, and for all who find themselves in the terrible circumstances of war . I would like to congratulate His Eminence Metropolitan Anthony of Hierapolis and His Eminence Archbishop Daniel de Pamphilon for their inspiring leadership in these difficult times. As they hold this prayer service in their Cathedral, we thank them for giving us this opportunity to come together and pray together in a spirit of solidarity and compassion.
Today we feel blessed to be surrounded by so much love and support from the friends of Ukraine. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to all of you today for responding to our call to pray for peace in Ukraine with such openness. In response to the tragic humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and the immediate assistance needed there, we, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, have announced a major fundraising effort that will help those most affected by the Russian invasion. That is why, as a first step, we donated $100,000 to the Ecumenical Patriarchate to support the efforts of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and also created the Ukrainian Relief Effort, which was created in collaboration with International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC).
Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Brothers and Sisters,
As the righteous Gideon proclaimed, “the Lord is peace” (Judges 6:24). During each of our worship services, we pray “for the peace of the whole world”, because peace is more than the balance of power or the absence of war. Peace is a state in which the presence of God is revealed. “For Christ is our peace”, writes Saint Paul, and “in his flesh he united the two groups into one and broke down the wall which separated us, that is, the hostility between us” (Ephesians 2:14).
As we watch news from the region, we are inspired both by the incredible courage of the Ukrainian people who face terrible adversity with a bravery no one expected, and by the bravery of the thousands of Russians who are risking their freedom. – and perhaps even their lives – as they protest against this unprovoked and unreasonable attack. The current situation reminds me of what Alexander Solzhenitsyn once wrote: “Someone whom you have deprived of everything is no longer in your power. He is completely free again. It is this feeling of freedom that inspires and respects the whole world.
We are called not only to forgive our enemies, but to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44). Here we can go a step further: See no enemy in any of our brothers and sisters. For truly, the love of Christ can break down all barriers, transforming us into one united family capable of resisting evil and healing the wounds our world is suffering right now. For me, this is the prophetic lesson His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew taught us when granting the Tomos of Autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in 2019. The spiritual independence of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine was – and even more today — the real answer to division. An independent Orthodox Church as a promise of unity for the Ukrainian people: this was the vision of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. When the time comes to consider the reconstruction of this wonderful country in the wake of this tragedy, I see a wonderful opportunity for the Orthodox Church to be a catalyst and a source of renewed unity.
Thank you for coming today. May God bless Ukraine and the Ukrainian people!