On the Tragic Events at Sandy Hook Elementary School
From His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
(Sunday, December 16, 2012)
Today, during the Divine Liturgy our heart and attention were directed in thought and prayer for those who lost their lives at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Connecticut, USA, especially the tender children and their caring teachers. We stand in silent prayer and tears beside their siblings, parents, and extended family, as well as the community and entire American nation, as we mourn the loss of innocence and extinguishing of dreams.
At this moment, we are the silence and tears of God. No words can adequately express the grief of those related to the victims or, indeed, the disbelief of us all. Silence and tears are the only fitting response to the traumatic unfolding of events, which began last Friday morning, and whose reverberation will continue for days and years to come. Silence and tears are the only tangible way that the presence of God, who always receives “the sacrifice of a broken and crushed heart,” can fill our painful void with solace and transform our unimaginable grief into comfort. Silence and tears are the only selfless way that we can stand in solidarity with one another before this tragedy.
When the pain subsides and the tears dry, then we may reflect on the reality of horror and darkness in our world. Then we must interpret for our children; but, more importantly, we must inform society and influence politicians about how to reshape our world so that this never happens again. We must ponder our response to the suffering and violence in our life. We must understand the responsibility we share for terror and evil, which is easily blamed on others – whether other peoples or other individuals – but should also be discerned among us and even within us. And we must assume initiatives for radical decisions and drastic changes in our society and the global community. Then, the lives of these victims will not have been lost in vain. Then, their candles will shine brightly forever.
There are more angels in heaven today. And those closest to the sweet children and their loving teachers are surrounded by more than just our love. They can take pride in “such a great cloud of witnesses,” who are now in the arms of God.
May their memory be eternal!
At the Ecumenical Patriarchate, with paternal compassion and fervent prayer
Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch