July 4, 2014
To the Most Reverend Hierarchs, the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of the Parish Councils of the Greek Orthodox Communities, the Distinguished Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Day, Afternoon, and Church Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
On this Independence Day we offer thanksgiving and praise to God for the freedom we have as human beings created in His divine image and as citizens of a nation that values, protects and promotes freedom as essential to human life, well-being, and potential. As Orthodox Christians we know and affirm that God is the source of our freedom because He is the absolutely Free and the Creator of genuine freedom.
In view of this basic truth we can understand the importance of our cherished religious freedom in the United States of America and our support for religious freedom around the world. Religious freedom affirms the fundamental human characteristic of freedom and creates the proper conditions for worshipping God.
The emphasis on religious freedom as a gift from God also relates to the fact that we have been created for relationship – relationship with God and with each other. We are social beings, and it follows that we have been created by God to give social expression to our beliefs through our worship. As communities of faith we gather freely without fear of reprisal or persecution. We live and serve together, inviting others to hear the truth of the Gospel. In freedom we follow the tenets of our Orthodox faith, sharing truth without prohibitions or restrictions so that others might receive the blessings of grace and an abundant life in Christ.
Finally, we know that freedom, religious freedom in particular, is founded on truth and is essential to our human and communal existence because God created us with a free will. We have the freedom to believe in Him or to reject this belief. We have the freedom to accept and live in His revealed truth or to deny it. Religious freedom provides the space to search, question and discuss. We are able to seek the truth without coercion. We are not threatened by force, burdened by the threat and pain of torture, or bound by intolerant and discriminatory laws. We are truly free as intended by God to ask, to seek, to find, and to choose.
On this day we join with many throughout this nation in celebration of freedom and in honor of those who have sacrificed their lives to protect it. As our faith guides us in understanding the vital significance of freedom, we affirm religious freedom as an essential value. We offer a witness of the blessings of this freedom. We continue our tireless efforts on behalf of our beloved Ecumenical Patriarchate for religious freedom. And we recognize that this freedom is an indispensable right for every human being on earth.
May we use our freedom responsibly and strengthen our witness of the source of freedom, offering to all the truth of the Gospel and the love of Christ.
With paternal love in Him,
Archbishop of America