© Copyright Embassy of Greece 1996-2005. All Rights Reserved.
17 July, 2008
The following are remarks by Ambassador Alexandros P. Mallias at the 39th Clergy-Laity Congress on Thursday, July 17, 2008, in Washington D.C.
Σεβασμιώτατε Αρχιεπίσκοπε Αμερικής,
Σεβασμιώτατε Αγιε Θυάτειρων,
1. Είναι για μένα μια ξεχωριστή στιγμή η σημερινή. Καθόσον είναι η τελευταία φορά που έχω την τιμή και ευκαιρία να απευθυνθώ σε Συνέδριο της Κληρικο-Λαϊκής.
Time flies by and I will not have the opportunity to address the next Clergy Laity Congress.
I have been privileged and honored that Greece, our πατρίδα, entrusted me with the position of Ambassador to the United States. During my time here, I have been impressed by the works of the Hellenic American community and its leadership.
Ιn his Sunday sermon, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios emphasized how important it is for people to “apply themselves to good deeds”. It is St. Paul himself, in his Letter to Titus – Επιστολή προς Τίτον, who underlines this:
“3.14 Μανθανάτωσαν δε και οι ημέτεροι καλών έργων προϊστασθαι εις τας ανάγκας χρείας, ίνα μη όσιν άκαρποι (And let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful.)
In essence, our mission as individuals, as citizens of an organized society, our life, is futile “άδεια και κενή περιεχομένου” if it’s not matched not just by deeds, but by good deeds.
2. Martin Luther King put it simply: “Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve.” Yet, Dr. King, through his own deeds, was a disciple of Plato and Aristotle.
This is one of the lessons that come to us from our Hellenic heritage and our faith. Throughout my life, I have questioned and doubted myself, feeling vulnerable and uncertain about my judgments regarding events and, at times, my fellow men. And I have taken solace in the words of our faith.
In the first Epistle to Corinthians, where St. Paul addresses the issue of God and Spirit, he writes:
“ο δε πνευματικός ανακρίνει μεν πάντα, αυτός δε υπ ουδενός ανακρίνεται. τις γαρ έγνω νουν κυρίου ος συμβιβάσει αυτόν ημείς δε νουν χριστού εχομεν”
“The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment. Because we have the mind of Christ.”
And when we wonder how our judgments, our decisions and deeds make us look in the eyes of others, in his second Epistle to Corinthians, St. Paul says:
“εύχομαι δε προς τον θεον μη ποιησαι υμας κακον μηδεν ουχ ινα ημεις δοκιμοι φανωμεν αλλ ινα υμεις το καλον ποιητε ημεις δε ως αδοκιμοι ωμεν ου γαρ δυναμεθα τι κατα της αληθείας αλλά υπέρ της αλήθειας”
“. . . not that people will see that we have stood the test, but that you will do what is right, even though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.”
3. The love of truth and the importance of good works, of contributing, are ever-present values in Hellenic culture, from antiquity to today. And being a student of the Classics, it is clear to me that those of a Hellenic education and Greek origin are the beneficiaries of a culture and a tradition that combines logic and faith; reason and spirituality.
Hellenic paideia contains knowledge from both the natural and the spiritual – our culture has been molded by the great tradition of the Classics and of the Orthodox faith.
It’s also clear to me that παιδεια, γνωση, επιστημη, shape our capacity to understand, to investigate, to research, while our faith helps us to interpret both the natural/physical and the less natural phenomena.
Science deals mainly with facts, while faith deals with values. Our Greek Orthodox faith allows us to move beyond the εφημερον and the less εφημερον of scientific knowledge.
Hellenic education, more than any other, and I say that not motivated by some ethnocentric notion, gives us the perfect combination of a values based paideia.
It has given us an education and a language which have contributed more than any other in the formulation of basic values, which still today, in the 21st century, continue to shape democratic institutions, the sense of personal/individual duty, for the good of the whole.
And let me just say that there is no other example of two countries, Greece and the U.S., whose foundations are similarly laid down on the same principles: serving and not being served.
4. In his “Funeral Oration,” Pericles, the man who instituted public service and jury duty in the world’s first democracy, says:
“We are called a democracy, for the administration is in the hands of the many and not of the few. . . . when a citizen is in any way distinguished he is preferred to the public service, not as a matter of privilege, but as the reward of merit. Neither is poverty a bar, but a man may benefit his country whatever be the obscurity of his condition. There is no exclusiveness in our public life;”
My point is that Hellenic education, which combines the ancient and the more recent and the Greek language, encompasses the whole spectrum of human experience.
5. His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios has often mentioned that we are the beneficiaries of this great tradition and culture, but we are also the fiduciaries, the custodians. In his address at the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki in 2002, he refers to the challenges confronted by the Greek Orthodox Church in the United States.
Among them are:
• The challenge that derives from the fact that we are a minority in a vast country;
• The challenge that refers to our Greek cultural heritage and its preservation and presentation in the most beautiful and comprehensive manner;
• The challenge of the experience of Orthodoxy and the dynamic promotion of the Orthodox faith in the technological, pluralistic and globalized environment of America.
6. In the message I was asked to write for this Congress, I refer to three issues of great importance to Hellenism and Orthodoxy:
• First, the plight του Οικουμενικού Πατριαρχείου Κωνσταντινουπόλεως. The European judicial system, through the European Court of Human Rights, vindicated the Patriarchate.
• Second is the looting, the plight of churches in the occupied by Turkish troops part of Cyprus. This anomaly against faith and culture must come to an end; it’s been exactly 34 years since the invasion and occupation of Cyprus.
• Third, the name issue of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia; FYROM’s self proclaimed Orthodox Church is a schismatic church not recognized by any other Orthodox church in the world.
7. Last but not least, I would like to refer to three issues that concern all citizens of the world.
• One is the issue of the Climatic/Environmental catastrophe, due to the lack of “metron” and logic that characterize human activity;
• Next is the widening gap of those who have and those who have not;
• Third is slavery in its “modern form,” the heinous practice of human trafficking.
All these issues are of grave concern to all of us, clergy and laity, because they offend and destroy the core values of our culture and faith, and might go as far as destroy the very earth upon which we stand.
Source: Embassy of Greece