His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon was one of several Eastern and Oriental Orthodox hierarchs who attended the annual Orthodox Prayer Service and reception for the United Nations community at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan Cathedral here on Wednesday, November 8, 2017.
The gathering was hosted by the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America and the Standing Conference of Oriental Orthodox Churches in America [SCOOCH].
Accompanying Metropolitan Tikhon were His Eminence, Archbishop Michael; Archdeacon Joseph Matusiak; and Subdeacon Roman Ostash.
Among the other hierarchs in attendance were His Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Chair of the Assembly of Bishops; His Eminence, Archbishop Daniel, President of the Consistory of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA; His Grace, Bishop Irinej of the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Eastern America; His Grace, Bishop Sevastianos of Zela, Greek Archdiocese; and His Grace, Bishop John of Naro-Fominsk, Administrator of the Patriarchal Parishes in the US, Moscow Patriarchate.
Also in attendance were His Eminence, Archbishop Khajag Barsamian of the Armenian Church, Eastern Diocese of America, SCOOCH President; His Eminence, Archbishop Mor Dionysius John Kawak, Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch; His Eminence, Archbishop Mor Titus Yeldho, Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church; His Grace, Bishop David, Coptic Orthodox Church; Very Rev. Melake Hayel Made Tsion-Durden, Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church; and Very Rev. Ghebremichael Yohannes, Eritrean Orthodox Church.
In addition to the cathedral choir, the choir of Saint Tikhon’s Seminary, South Canaan, PA graciously accepted the invitation to sing the liturgical responses and received a warm welcome from Archbishop Demetrios. Numerous ambassadors, dignitaries and members of the UN community, including UN President Miroslav Lajčák of Slovakia, also were present.
The focus of this year’s gathering was the growing plight of refugees and migrants. It was noted that there are at present 65 million displaced persons and 22.5 million refugees world wide, of which fewer than 200,000 were resettled in 2016.
In his address, Mr. Lajčák, who was sworn in as President of the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly on September 11, 2017, observed that the prayer service reflects and shares the concern of the UN with respect to refugees and migrants. Since medieval times, he said, religious communities have provided a safe haven, together with food, financial support, and shelter, to those “on the move.”
“Communities not only act to help people on the move, they help to address root causes,” Mr. Lajčák explained. He exhorted the faith community to “preach messages of peace, build bridges, and work for peace through peace… putting people first, [as] nothing should come before humanity…. Thank you for putting the focus on people. And thank you for reminding us that we are all working for the same ends.”
In his welcoming remarks, Archbishop Demetrios expressed gratitude for the “invitation to join our voice in prayer for the people who bring peace, justice and reconciliation to the world. We recognize the need to be in engaged in and encourage the transformative work of all people, especially those workers of the UN.
“This year we have as our focus the refugee and migrant crisis,” Archbishop Demetrios continued. “Together with my brothers it is a distinct privilege to welcome you to our cathedral. As we lift up our thoughts and prayers to God for His blessings, we are reminded that as beings, we are created by God and called to draw closer to one another by establishing a community of people who care in tangible and transformative ways. We come together to grow in love and charity for the least of our brothers, especially for those who find themselves on the move because of conditions beyond their control.”
Turning his attention to the UN community, Archbishop Demetrios closed by stating, “we beseech you to take advantage of your position as agents of positive change,” calling on them to address the root cause of mass migration, poverty, war violence and hostile living conditions. “Each country, according to capacity, has a responsibility to assist in resettling people. We must show mercy, and we must do our best to be a united global community that cares for the marginalized…. They are not just numbers; they are our mothers and fathers, [and] we must move beyond self interest and self centeredness to self sacrifice. Showing love to our neighbors means accepting that they are just like you and me.”
Archbishop Barsamian echoed a similar sentiment. “Tonight we pray for our Christian brothers and sisters throughout the world who are persecuted, [and] in the company of UN leaders, we pray for peace, where all God’s children can live with respect and dignity.”