Thursday, January 24, 2008

Tragedy Fosters Unity Between American Bible Society, Greek Orthodox Church

By Victor Anderson
Christian Post Contributor
Tue, Jan. 22 2008 09:21 AM ET

Ten thousand New Testaments donated by the American Bible Society together with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and Greek Bible Society are being delivered to victims of the massive forest fires that swept through Greece last year. The tragedy had inspired the Christian bodies to unite in encouragement of those still suffering in the fires’ aftermath.

Last August, large parts of the Greek countryside were ravaged by some of the worst wildfires in living memory. Hundreds of firefighters and soldiers fought more than 200 fires across Greece. In total 84 people lost their lives to the fires including fire fighters.

ABS’s latest collaboration with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and the Greek Bible Society comes after the Bible society expressed interest in growing its relationship with the Greek Orthodox Church, hopeful that their work together will improve their relationship with the Russian Orthodox Church. The Russian Orthodox Church is the largest ecclesiastically independent Eastern Orthodox Church in the world.

“The Russian Orthodox Church is rather large,” noted the Rev. Dr. Richard Jeske, American Bible Society director for Ecumenical Relations, to The Christian Post in June 2007. The Russian Orthodox Church has a membership estimated at more than 85 million, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.

“If we work with the Greek Orthodox well it will be helpful in building a relationship with them (the Russian Orthodox Church),” he commented.

Though physically distant, The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America has been reacting to the disaster with care for the overseas victims. The group “has actively responded to this terrible tragedy in Greece,” said His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, according to a statement from the American Bible Society. “Now, through this initiative from the Greek Bible Society, the Archdiocese of America will be able to support the local, pastoral outreach of the local Metropolises in Greece.”

The New Testaments, which will be freely distributed, are meant to give strength and comfort in the face of suffering for the victims of the tragic events.

“Supporting such vital programs as this tangibly demonstrates the Church’s concern for both the physical and spiritual well-being of everyone,” said Demetrios.

“…[We] believe that the written Word of God will help those affected experience God as the Lord of patience and consolation,” added Michail Chatzigiannis, the general secretary of the Greek Bible Society, in the statement. “These generous donations will enable the distribution of God’s written word to comfort the hearts of these suffering people.”

This is not the first time that the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, the Greek Bible Society, and the American Bible Society have worked together, with past joint projects including the publication of the Children’s Bible Reader and a New Testament Text. Nor will it likely be the last.

“The American Bible Society will continue working with both The Greek Orthodox Church and The Greek Bible Society to share God’s Word around the world,” said the Rev. Dr. Paul Irwin, American Bible Society president, after meeting with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, recognized by Orthodox churches as a spiritual leader and representative worldwide of some 300 million Orthodox Christians.

The feeling is mutual. After the meeting, His Eminence Metropolitan Nicholas, a Hierarch of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America whose jurisdiction is the Metropolis of Detroit, said, “We look forward to fostering this collaborative partnership with the American Bible Society.

The American Bible Society was founded in 1816 with the purpose of making the Bible available to every person in a language and format which each can understand and afford. ABS’s headquarters is in New York City and the ministry focuses on translation, publication and distribution of Bibles through working in partnership with all Christian churches and Christian communities.

Christian Post reporter Michelle Vu in Washington contributed to this report.


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