August 31, 2005
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Several days ago, as we awaited the arrival of Hurricane Katrina, we called upon the faithful to pray that those in the direct line of the storm would be spared. Initial reports indicated that the hurricane’s devastation had perhaps been less than anticipated, especially as the eye of the storm bypassed the city of New Orleans. Within 48 hours, however, it became evident that the Mississippi and Alabama coasts had borne the brunt of the storm, that New Orleans had experienced massive damage as a result of broken levees and rising water levels, and that severe - and in some cases total - destruction of property had become widespread throughout the region.
Of utmost concern, however, is the well-being of those who have suffered, and continue to suffer, in ways hard to imagine. Hundreds of thousands of people, many of them among the nation’s poorest, have lost everything - their homes, their possessions, their access to food and water and life’s basic essentials, and in a growing number of instances, their loved ones. Countless others still wait to be rescued, hoping to avoid the fate of those who perished because they lacked the means to evacuate their homes or because they simply had nowhere to go. The most recent reports project that hundreds, if not thousands, have lost their lives, even as the hopes of those who escaped the worst rapidly diminishes.
While Hurricane Katrina itself was nothing less than catastrophic, its aftermath and its effect on the lives of so many is nothing short of horrible. How, many ask, are those most affected by the storm and its aftermath to find the comfort of God? To whom can they turn in their hour of need?
My dear brothers and sisters: We are now being called upon to provide the hope, comfort, and love of God. As God’s People, we are being challenged to offer our prayers and to share our treasures with those who have lost everything. To the extent that we render thanks to God for sparing us from this tragedy - and for sparing our parishes in the region from serious damage - we also are being called upon to share with those who must rely on our generosity, and the generosity of all people of faith, in an effort to rebuild not only their homes, but most importantly, their lives.
In response to the challenge to serve others, especially the least of the brethren, I call upon our faithful, our parishes, our deaneries, and our dioceses to make yet another sacrifice for others by contributing to the Hurricane Disaster Response Fund that has been established by International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC). It is hoped that all parish communities will take a special collection in the immediate future. Your generous expressions of concern and hope will be channeled through IOCC, which has already dispatched teams to the most affected areas and has the means to maximize your donations and expressions of concern. Your gifts may be sent to IOCC “Hurricane Relief,” PO Box 630225, Baltimore, Maryland, 21263-0225, or by calling IOCC’s toll-free donation hotline (877-803-4622). On the memo line of your checks, please make the notation “Hurricane Relief/OCA.”
I pray that you will join me in offering a ray of hope to those who have experienced unimaginable suffering and loss, and who are likely to continue to experience personally the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina for months and years to come. Anticipating your generous response, I thank you, and I ask that God bless you abundantly, to the extent that you share your blessings with those in need.
With love in Christ,
Archbishop of Washington and New York
Metropolitan of All America and Canada