To the Venerable Clergy, Monastics, and Faithful of the Orthodox Church in America,
As you know, most parts of the world are currently experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the United States alone, there were over 184,000 cases and around 1,500 deaths reported on Sunday, November 22, 2020.
My prayers and those of the members of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America are offered for all those who have suffered and continue to suffer because of this virus, especially our Orthodox Christian brothers and sisters. Together with the Holy Synod, I also offer fervent prayers for the medical professionals who care for those who are ill with COVID-19.
The national and local authorities across North America are encouraging a greater level of caution while adopting a series of measures in the attempt of limiting the spread of the virus. After many months marked by the present pandemic, and which have tested us in unprecedented ways, this surge comes right before one of the most beloved civil holidays in America, Thanksgiving. Thus, observing these important measures requires an even greater spirit of self-sacrifice on our part. While celebrating Thanksgiving this year, we will celebrate with care and caution, born out of love. For it is not solely for our own health, but out of love for our neighbor, that we must do everything we can to protect one another by limiting the spread of this virus not only in our parishes, but in the greater community.
I want to encourage all members of the faithful to celebrate Thanksgiving, but with all prudence, caution, and love for our neighbor. Further, I take this moment to reiterate the following to all the parishes, monasteries, institutions, and the faithful of the Orthodox Church in America: hold fast to the directives and guidelines put forward by the Holy Synod for the whole Church, and your diocesan bishop in particular for your specific local situation. Remain vigilant in precautions against COVID-19, and continue to practice good hygiene, maintain social distancing, wear masks, and follow carefully the other important measures and practices directed by the diocesan bishops and the public health authorities. Of primary importance is to be particularly attentive to potential symptoms, and refraining from leaving our house if we are in any way sick.
At the same time, I want to encourage all of you not to be fearful but rather to be strengthened and comforted by this blessed season in which we prepare for the Nativity of Our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ. I assure you, no steps we take this year to guard against the spread of the coronavirus will prevent us from giving thanks to God for all that he has given us. In anticipation of the coming of the True Light, Jesus Christ, the great Physician and Healer of our souls and bodies, we cling to those words of the Psalmist, “I will love Thee, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my firm foundation, my refuge, and my deliverer (Ps 18.1-2).”
May our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed eternally with the Heavenly Father, and the Holy Spirit preserve us in these days and grant us health and his peace.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All America and Canada