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"On the Events of September 11, 2001"


Homily at the Holy Cathedral of Athens

These days, days during which our Church turns its attention and directs its prayers to the salvational event of the Crucifixion, our ethnos is called to commemorate and to honor the victims of terrorist attacks in New York, Washington D.C. and in the Pennsylvania countryside. At the same time, in our country, the face of terrorism is being revealed: It is tragically devoid of all meaning, denuded of all justice, and far from humanity.

Our prayers and thoughts today turn towards all those innocents who lost their lives in America. Among them were many of our fellow Greeks and Greek-Americans. Our prayers are directed especially towards those brave firefighters, policemen and women and rescue workers who fell trying to save the victims of this odious acts. We pray also on behalf of the thousands of relatives and friends who were violently torn from their loved ones, and for all those whose souls seek consolation.

The terrorists sought to break the soul of the American people with one blow with one blow. They aimed a conveyance of death, blood, terror and destruction at the center of American life. They struck a blow that they intended to be fatal. They called their act one of punishment, suggesting that they meted out justice. Despite this they failed. Their act showed the horror of violence, but not the face of justice. Their act resulted in many victims, but could not be justified. Their act revealed the existence of a criminal band, not the existence of an organization that wishes to build a just society.

The apologists for violence justify its use in terms of revenge. But hatred is not justice, and revenge is inconceivable without hatred. Hatred consumes him who bears it, not against him at whom it is directed. Hatred claims the soul of man, and it is for this reason that the Apostle Paul asks of us “do not avenge yourselves,” in order to make peace (Romans 12, 19). For this reason we Christians pray to the Lord to ask Him to help the survivors, the relatives and friends of the victims, and not to allow their souls to be poisoned by the desire for revenge, but to remain full of love and forgiveness.

Our Church teaches obedience to the law. Over the centuries, in the Christian societies in which we live there has developed the sense that the citizen must not take law into his or her own hands, that he or she must not seek to replace society. He or she knows that it is to society that God has given the right to dispense justice, not to the individual. God has given to society and to the organized state the responsibility to dispense justice and to impose it without violation. God punishes the person who takes the law into his or her own hands, as He punishes severely the ruler who refuses to dispense justice.

God requires that we should turn a blind eye to injustices committed against us, that we not judge, and that we refuse to condemn our fellow man. The person who ignores society, who as self-appointed judge dispenses justice as he or she deem fit, does not serve the justice of God not God’s law. The demands of justice are nullified if they are formulated in the wrong manner. As the divine Word warns: “For pressing milk produces curd; pressing the nose produces blood; and pressing anger produces strife.” (Proverbs, 30, 33)

Violence is not God’s gift to man. Violence is Cain’s hour. It is the result of sin, the product and the proof of man’s fall. That is why the products of violence are death, deceit, pain, fear, terror, rapine, oppression, lies and brutality. It product also is the inevitable separation of men into persecutors and victims, and the profound denial of God’s will, which requires that all men be brothers, their relations governed by love. How is it possible that evil be dealt with by violence, which is itself a product of evil? How may one expect something good to result from Cain’s action?

Our Lord Jesus Christ illustrated by a parable the difference between the man of God and the man of violence. The prototype of the Christian is the Good Samaritan. It is the person whose way is lit by his care for the victim, his care for his fellow man. In the soul of the Christian is incised the word of wisdom: “But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn which shines brighter and brighter until full day. The way of the wicked is like deep darkness they do not know over what they stumble.” (Proverbs, 4, 18-19)

The ways of the righteous are not those of conspiracy, they are not those of death, blood and tears. The righteous person walks upright and straight in the presence of the Lord, eager to relieve pain, to heal the injury of his fellow man. “And looking upon Jesus as he walked by, he said ‘Behold the lamb of God!’” The lamb, not the wolf, The lamb, not the lion. The lamb, not the frightful.

The act of lawlessness is through the centuries the same: man rejects the word of God and decides to direct his life, society, even nature, with his own powers. In order to succeed in his task he only has one way, to be powerful. Since the age of Adam until today, man has been rejecting the word of God, he has been refusing to understand that the lamb holds the power, not the lion. He refuses to accept that power lies in imposition but in service, not in acquisition but in the offering.

The act of lawlessness is always the same, the means are different. In the twentieth century a new element has appeared and it is to this that I would like to turn your attention. This element is not only visible, but I would say determinative of the blow against the American people.

It pertains to the explosive dimensions of evil the result of the steep increase of scale. It is estimate that during the twentieth century about 170 million people lost their lives as a result of persecution and war. Of these, approximately 38 million people died on battlefields, i.e. about one-fifth of the total. In other words, about 132 million of our fellow humans were killed as a result of religious, political or racial persecution. And this dance of death continues in our century. These are monstrous numbers, which the experts have labeled with the cold term of megadeaths. Despite this, the Apocalypse provides another interpretation of this remarkable phenomenon: “And there went forth another horse, a red one; and to him who was sitting on it, it was given to take peace from earth, and that men should kill one another, and there was given him a great sword.” (Apocalypse, 2,4)

We see the same phenomenon of the quantitative increase to an indescribable degree in the terrorist attack against the American people. We are no dealing here with the murder of some official, but about thousands of casualties, the death of whom was not random but the result of design. As a result of this attack terrorism also joined the dance of forces that cause megadeaths. Surely there follow measures in response, indeed we already are witnessing them. Yet despite them not only the United States government, but also the citizens know that the thief will try to break the lock of the most advanced type, and that the annihilation of an organization does no constitute the elimination of the causes that brought it about.

This fact determines the attitude of the Christian today. We are called to counter megadeaths with megaministry. As wickedness grows in size so must the ministration to one another. As the numbers grow of those who are murdered, tortured, persecuted and suffer, so too must our care, ministration, prayer and concern for the victims. It is only through our Love of God that we are led to love for our fellow man.

We were all able to witness live what the American people suffered. We all understood immediately because all of us saw with awe what happened, while it was happening. The attack on the World Trade Center shook all of us. Whatever happens over the entire planet enters the home of and touches every person. The mass media allow all of us to be present, eyewitnesses to events.

Is it therefore possible for us to be eyewitnesses, to become informed about events taking place in every corner of the planet, and for us to continue to insist that these events “do not concern us? To continue to concern ourselves only with “matters pertaining to us”? What are those “matters that pertain to us”? Are they not those that pertain to our neighbor? Since the entire world has become our neighbor, is not his or her pain ours? The Church is by its very nature ecumenical, it embraces the entire world, it does not tolerate limits in love.

I would say therefore that globalization, which has given us the possibility to witness what is happening on our planet, in other words, the globalization of information, for the Christian constitutes first and foremost the globalization of moral responsibility. Only in this way is the death that spreads unto the world the dark field towards which we are advancing, while we touch the brilliant word of Resurrection.

It is characteristically true of course, that the truth which applies to the Church is that it prays continuously for every suffering human being, even if it does not know him personally. The instruction to the faithful to pray “on behalf of those sailing, the travelers, the sick, the weary, the prisoners,” or to ask for God’s protection from every sort of evil, “from famine, pestilence, earthquake, flood, fire, the sword, barbarian raids, civil conflict” etc., demonstrates that quite apart from any specific news item about something evil that may have befallen some part of the world, the faithful pray daily and shed their tears on behalf of their suffering brethren throughout the world.

I have this to say both to us and to the victims of evil, repeating the words of the Apostle: “Put on, therefore… a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, meekness, patience. Bear with one another and forgive one another, if anyone has grievance against any other” (Colossians 3, 12-13). When both our joy and our sorrow become ministration, surely then we will be serving the will of the living God.

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