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The Word Interviews Metropolitan Joseph

Bishop John visited Metropolitan Joseph on July 26, 2014, to receive his blessings and a message for the readers of The Word. Metropolitan Joseph was hospitable, candid and loving. Here is what he had to say. 

We thank God for all of His blessings, wisdom and guidance bestowed upon us. I thank our Father in Christ, Patriarch John X, for his leadership, love and constant prayers for this Archdiocese. We pray to almighty God that He will grant our Father, Patriarch John X, strength and perseverance during this critical time in the life of our Patriarchate, especially the challenges and danger facing the people and land of the Middle East. We thank my brother Metropolitans, the members of the Holy Synod of Antioch, for their confidence, their love and their support. I also would like to take this opportunity to thank my brother hierarchs of this Archdiocese for all of their hard work, godly ministry and efforts to maintain the unity and strength of our Archdiocese. We pray that the merciful God will remember our beloved Metropolitan Philip in His heavenly Kingdom and will reward him richly for all of the accomplishments realized during his half-century ministry. He left for us a big legacy to build upon.

Now we begin a new chapter in the life the Archdiocese. The Archdiocese is not one person, but the whole body; metropolitan, hierarchs, clergy, monastics and all the believers. If we work together as a team–and I call all of us to work as a team – the Archdiocese will be strengthened and Metropolitan Philip from the Kingdom of God will rejoice. When I say that we work as a team, it means that everyone shares in this ministry. We don’t have to wait for invitations to serve. Although service needs to be orderly, I urge each of you to recognize that this Archdiocese is your home, your life and your responsibility, too. God has entrusted this Archdiocese to all of us. Just as your family gathers at home, when we gather as the Archdiocese we are one big family. Jesus is the head of this family. He is the vine and we are the branches. We have a lot of work ahead of us. We have a lot of work to do. There is no time to waste. Saving souls cannot be delayed until tomorrow.

I will work ceaselessly with my brother hierarchs of this Archdiocese, visiting, encouraging, guiding and teaching. We will listen to our people. Together we will study and share life, deepening our faith. The clergy are asked to work hard and maintain godliness in their lives, homes and parishes. They are to obey the teachings of our Lord and convey the true message of Jesus Christ to every home and, most especially, to the lost sheep everywhere in this vast Archdiocese. I call upon them to do all that they can, using everything under their control for the sake of our shared godly ministry. I call upon all of our believers to make their spiritual life their first priority. We must not be given up to excuses, because God has prepared everything forus. It is right for us to be with Him and to be obedient to His teachings, keeping all of the Christian values in our life and living according to them. If we keep our eyes and attention on the Christian values, our life will be enriched and our children will be safeguarded from evil attacks.

You and I together have a great ministry to save the beautiful and wonderful souls that God has entrusted us with. Surely, we will build using bricks and stones so that the Archdioceses prospers and its properties are well-maintained, but your salvation and the salvation of your children is the real goal. I need your prayers and support, as well as the prayers and support of all of the Antiochian people, both financially and spiritually.

Together we need to help those who are unfortunate here and abroad. We need to bring joy and hope to those who are hurting. We need a Christianity of action. We need to help wherever it is needed.

I promise to use all the power and influence of my office to give voice to those who need to be advocated for. I will speak for the sake of justice and peace so that our voice can be heard. We will not forget the Christians and others who are suffering in the troubled areas of the world. Our brothers and sisters who are suffering need our witness and support. We will not ignore their suffering and we stand with them.

Two areas that are dear to my heart are monastic life and the youth (camp ministry). Patriarch Elias IV of blessed memory, after his visit to North America in the 1970s, addressed the seminarians and said, “In North America they have everything, but lack monasteries.” For years this has been on my heart, and now the time has come to meet this challenge. Beloved, monastic life strengthens the life of the church as monastics bear witness to the biblical truths in the way they live their lives. In general and in this Archdiocese in particular, we would be well-served to have a strong monastic witness. Therefore we are looking ahead to see if our old and young people throughout the Archdiocese are willing to respond to God’s call. We are already blessed with two monasteries as a start: St. Silouan the Athonite Monastery in Wichita, and St. Thekla in Glenville, Pennsylvania. We will make serious efforts to have more monasteries throughout the Archdiocese.

The other priority dear to my heart is our youth. I want to keep them in the faith and sustain their spiritual lives. They need out attention and prayers, as well as our sacrifices for this task. We need to improve our camps and further develop youth programs. I will need the help of our hierarchs, clergy and faithful to accomplish these goals. 

In the future, our investment in our youth will bring forth spiritual leaders, good fathers and mothers, good citizens and Orthodox Christians able to share our faith with America and our children. I know that it is not easy and this looks crazy and impossible, but with God all things are possible. Remember that St. Paul says in his letter to the Philippians, “I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me” (4:13).

Thank you for your prayers and support.