US Flag lowered at Kennedy Space Center (AP Photo)We mourn today, the tragic loss of the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia, which catastrophically burst apart upon re-entering the earth's atmosphere this morning around 9:00 a.m. EST.

These seven men and women were not only examples of heroism for people of all faiths and countries, so needed in our present day, but were also mothers and fathers, brothers, sisters, relatives and friends to those close to them.

We cannot ignore the message of hope that the Columbia voyage offers, despite the tragic way in which their mission ended. At this crucial time in history, when terror and war threaten to destroy the good that God intends for all humanity, their flight into space is a reminder that beyond the skepticism and uncertainty that mark life across the world, there is always the possibility of new and better frontiers, beyond human division, away from suffering and towards greater solidarity and peace.

So that the words of critics do not tarnish the opportunity that this moment offers for the good, let us focus our attention away from self-serving criticisms that would speak of this tragedy as God's wrath upon a human race that dares to tread into unexplored and uncharted realms. Instead, let us place our emphasis on the ever opening horizons and discoveries that new ventures in space offer us.

Pioneering efforts of this kind hold tremendous possibilities for advancements in the discipline of science, developments in the area of human service and world communications, and the greater chance of a better tomorrow by finding and cultivating cures for disease and sickness. The explorations of our men and women in space represent the necessary risks taken in order to continue the ongoing course of putting God-given talents and resources to use for the greater good.

As people of faith, we know that science alone cannot bring about spiritual or physical healing nor the promotion of peace and unity, but rather, the good stewardship of all the Lord's gifts is what is required and expected of us, to make our world a more peaceful, healthy and just place to live. We believe that this positive form of stewardship is what was central in the hearts of the crew of Columbia.

Today, they were caught up into the skies, to the third heaven and were in an instant, taken from our midst. May their example of bravery and the pledge of freedom it espouses, keep our minds and hearts eternally fixed on the goodness of the human spirit, with which we are all endowed by our heavenly Creator and God.

May their memories be eternal and may their sacrifice bear fruit in a safer, more just world.

Given at our Chancery Office, February 1, 2003, Cleveland, Ohio, USA.

Hierarchy of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church - Sobornopravna


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