Pastoral Letter on Denver Tragedy

The Rev. Fr. Andreas (Allen W.) Elder
St. Andrew the Apostle Orthodox Church
Longmont, Colorado

April 21, 1999

Rev. and Dear Fr. Andreas and Parishioners:

Christ is Risen!

The news of the high school disaster in the greater Denver area has effected our entire nation. In both a pastoral and a personal way, Vladyka +STEPHAN and I join our prayers and emotions with all of you, whose feelings certainly are more deeply intertwined with the families and friends of the victims of this terrible massacre.

Human loss is always a tragedy and this is only emphasized when it effects the youth of our communities, who represent both our national and global future, along with its hopes and aspirations.

Catastrophes are no strangers to the history of human kind, but when it occurs close to home, perhaps even intruding into our own natural and extended families, the weight of the situation is magnified beyond what many can imagine and we begin to ask questions about the very essence of life in a world which we believe to have been created by a loving God and Father.

The Christian faith, while one of comfort and compassion, also calls its members to stand for values which promote peace and righteousness. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied" (Mt. 5:6). Events like the one in your area yesterday challenge us to attack the very roots which cause acts of hatred and violence. The news media tells us that it is these postures which led the perpetrators to commit this most recent gross crime.

We like to think in our generation that we have overcome past attitudes of intolerance and oppression, which throughout history and particularly in the previous generation, have moved people to rage great havoc on fellow human beings. After the Second World War, the Western world proudly and hopefully used the phrase, "War, never again war!" Unfortunately, we see today that we are far from realizing this hope and aspiration. Hatred and violence are still prevalent and we must work even harder to show others that we, as Christians will not stand for these attitudes.

As members of the church, we are the heirs of the great triumph of Christ's resurrection, which we celebrate during this time of the year. As heirs, though, we must realize that it was not without a price that Christ gave us this inheritance and, as we know, this price was his own very life. Jesus died because of the evils of intolerance and pride on the part of the people of his day. He made the supreme sacrifice so that the world may know that God is about love (1 Jn. 4: 8, 16), not hate, about freedom, not forced adherence, about the beauty of the diversity of God's creation, not about blind conformity to the false doctrines of the powerful.

If we believe that the resurrection of Christ gives us a new lease on life, a new chance for hope beyond what we can see, feel and hear in the material world, then we must re-commit ourselves to the idea that the resurrection must force us to change our minds about God, the world in which we live and other people. The resurrection challenged the beliefs of people of Jesus' own day about the very nature of God and his great love and compassion. It showed that there can be hope in suffering, that injustice will never be able to wipe out goodness and that, even if evil seems to prevail for a time, the God whom we call our Father will never abandon his children for whom his own Son sacrificed his very life.

We offer our support and concern to you and all those in your area. Let this be a time when we make an extra effort, through our conversations and interactions with others, to reach out and emphasize yet again, the things that are wrong with our society and what we can do to promote a change which will foster the great love that our God dictates we are to have for one another.

We ask you to remember also at this time, the many who are suffering in Yugoslavia because of the same attitudes of injustice, particularly the clergy and faithful of our sister church in Montenegro.

Be assured that you and the families of the victims of this tragedy are remembered in our Divine Liturgies and prayers. On behalf of our Metropolitan, Vladyka +STEPHAN and myself, I bestow to you, our Archpastoral blessing.

Yours in the God of Love and Life,

Archbishop of Cleveland

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