Faith In Every Footstep; A Visit To The Inner City Of Los Angeles
Your Eminence, Archbishop Spyridon of America,
Your Grace Bishop Anthony,
Distinguished Public Servants,
Beloved spiritual children in the Lord,
It is a great joy to be in your midst this afternoon and to reach out a hand of peace and friendship to all, especially the children and young people. The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the Elder Brother of World Orthodoxy, embraces you today with all our love and blessings.
As we look upon one another, we see so many similarities in our journey of life. Our own Orthodox Christian forefathers and mothers came to this blessed new land, not so long ago. They fled war, persecution, prejudice and the tyranny of economic deprivation. Many of you are immigrants and children of immigrants, who rejected conditions in your own home country, which demeaned and defiled your basic humanity.
The local community gathered to greet us today here at the Berendo School, is a dramatic witness to the fact that our lives have been characterized as one, where faith moved our every footstep. Because we share so many traditions and similarities, we can develop a common agenda of renewal in a part of this city, where God has planted us.
The reality and holiness of the Kingdom of God must begin here on earth, with each and every one of us. We can no longer create or maintain artificial barriers, that separate us from the reality of our shared life. Here in the great inner city of Los Angeles, the City of the Angels, we have much to accomplish, to merit this angelic designation.
Our common agenda must be reflected by mutual respect of each other’s traditions, and an appreciation of each other’s hopes and aspirations. With God’s help and our own commitment, we must address the issues of human and civil rights, and the responsibilities of all. We must support every effort to secure a quality education for all our children.
For all who struggle to make their daily bread in the context of free and legitimate enterprise, we must work to expand economic opportunities, that can enrich lives with the nobility of labor. The curse of crime, drugs and inner city decay must be confronted head on, and without compromise. And, we must expand our sights, to include concern for a healthy environment, not only in our neighborhoods, but for the entire planet.
To this end, our own Holy Orthodox Church, parish by parish, here in America, and especially in Los Angeles, will partner with all who wish to till the soil of human potential and development. If we are truly committed to a positive future, we must transcend narrow self-interests, and explore the meaning of duty and opportunity for the good of all.
Our own Saint Sophia Cathedral, which is privileged to share in the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural interaction of the area, has been working and praying for a number of years now, with an active local citizenry. Churches, public agencies and friends whose basic roots are from Central America, Mexico, and beyond, are working together to renew and revitalize this part of the inner city. We bless and celebrate this exciting partnership and hard work in what has been officially designated by the City as, the BYZANTINE-LATINO QUARTER OF LOS ANGELES. This is a unique and historic concept, joining Hellenic ideals and Latin American traditions, fused into a vibrant synergy of brotherhood and love.
We recognize the power at work here, a power so great that the dreams it nourishes, can only be limited by the measure of our inner faith, and the boundaries of our imagination. It is our spiritual foundation that defines us, and our love that moves us.
So, as we work with one another, let us pray for one another. Our Lord Jesus Christ taught that “Man does not live by bread alone.” Thus, in our desire to solve our daily problems, and to improve the conditions of our social and material existence, we must be ever mindful of those who are crying out for spiritual nourishment.
This visit to the United States has been a “journey of faith” for us. From the eastern shores to the western coast of America, faith has marked our every footstep. Faith has brought us here today, and it is our prayer that those footsteps of faith will bless the labors of each and every one of you.
With all that you seek to accomplish, you are, indeed, beacons of light for your community. With your inner will and power of determination, you can accomplish anything. That which is impossible for man, is possible with God (cf. Matthew 19:26). There is a touching and wise saying that points us in the right direction. “We are, each of us, angels with only one wing. And, we can only fly be embracing each other.”
Dear friends, we thank you for embracing us today with your presence and your love — in this, the City of the Angels. Your enthusiasm and hospitality will live long in our memories. It can be a living example to the entire world of what can happen when brothers and sisters work with a common vision toward a common goal, with peace and harmony, in service to humanity. Along with my Brother Bishops and Clergy, we bless you in the name of the Lord, and pray that the Grace of God will always be upon you, your families and your good works.