Encyclical of Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
July 4, 2013
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As we commemorate Independence Day and its significance for this nation, for our American heritage, and for the quality of our lives, we must also affirm and share the truth our Orthodox faith offers concerning freedom. In our contemporary world, many people understand freedom in a very individualistic way. For example, some emphasize freedom as an individual right in terms of speech, movement, belief, or behavior. Others speak of freedom from the arbitrary use of the power of government. Many affirm the liberty to have or to pursue a wide range of economic and social opportunities.
Certainly, these are aspects of the classical understanding of liberty in a free society in which government is of and for the people and their freedom is protected through various limitations on political authority. However, as Orthodox Christians, we understand that freedom is much more than this. We know that the blessing of a free society is that we are free to live and experience freedom in the fullest possible way. This is freedom that is not limited to our individual rights and opportunities, but freedom to move beyond ourselves to what we can do for and offer to others.
Yes, we are free to say, do, move, and believe; but in the context of our faith and our communion with God, we are free to share a Gospel of love and hope. We are free to give and serve so that others might find healing and peace. We are free to respond to the needs of those around us. We are free to act on our beliefs and offer a witness of the power and grace of God.
On this Independence Day, may we join with our fellow citizens of the United States of America in a celebration of our freedom. May we continue to be champions of freedom for all people throughout the world. May we also offer a witness of how true and enduring freedom is much more than the rights, equality and opportunities that we have individually. Let us show that the experience of freedom is much greater when we use it as an opportunity to bring life and hope to others and honor and glory to God.
With paternal love in Him,
Archbishop of America