I am happy when given the opportunity to praise our Archbishop. Congratulations, therefore, to the Archbishop for coming to Astoria this past Friday to bless the day school students of the Cathedral of St. Demetrios to mark the opening of the school year.
It is a blessing service that is important for the children, the Community, and the Church.
Our Church in America, from the arrival of our first priests in late 19th and early 20th Centuries – despite its turbulent early path, which lasted until the arrival of Archbishop Athenagoras in 1930 who served until 1948, when he was elected Patriarch – equated the future of the Church with the preservation of the Greek language .
It was the dawn of mass immigration from Greece. The priests were all born in Greece. Things were easy in that respect. But that was not the only thing that mattered .
The Church had an identity. It was the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. It knew what it was and what it wanted to be. With the passage of time and as result of changed demographics we have misplaced our compass.
Who is its flock; Where is the Church headed? In popular parlance, we would say, “What is its market? ” It tries to please everyone, while satisfying no one in particular. This is not working. Its lacking of a strong identity has, among other things, a lot to do with it.
If we accept the view that it is, and wants to remain, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, then it must be understood that it must continue to promote and use the Greek language to some extent, and that means it must support the schools and everything related to the Hellenism of the Diaspora.
So when the Archbishop goes to bless a school, this is the message he broadcasts: that the Church cares about its Greek identity. This does not, of course, mean that the Church should ignore the needs of our people who don’ t speak Greek. It should care and it must.
For this reason the violent reactions to the use of the English Language Iakovos tried to introduce during a Divine Liturgy at the 1972 Clergy Laity Congress in New York was wrong.
We cannot exclude the English language in a country where it is the native language and the language of many generations of our brothers and sisters.
You cannot deny our children the opportunity of taking part in the life of the Church. Just as you have to fight for change in other aspects relating to the Church. One of them is the issue of the mixed marriages and the ban on a priest blessing the marriage of a Greek with a Jew.
We have been deceiving ourselves and in so doing we are losing our children. Without gaining anything. Still, the Church has to have a strong identity. Without it, it will not reach its potential.