On Monday, October 26, 2009, the Standing Conference of Orthodox Bishops in America (SCOBA) and the Standing Conference of Oriental Orthodox Churches (SCOOCH) held their 9th Annual Joint Vespers Prayer service for the United Nations Community.
Presiding over the Vespers prayer was the Eastern Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch His All Holiness Bartholomew, who welcomed assembled Hierarchs (including His Grace Bishop David of the Coptic Orthodox Church), clergy, ambassadors, and dignitaries of the United Nations Diplomatic Corps and laity to Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Archdiocese Cathedral in New York. In accordance with the ecumenical nature of the SCOBA/SCOOCH partnership, this year’s service was hosted by an Eastern Orthodox church whereas last year’s service was hosted by an Oriental Orthodox church, the Saint Vartan Armenian Cathedral.
Patriarch Bartholomew delivered a general address to the participants after the joint prayer in which he discussed the Orthodox Church and the environment, religious freedom, service to humanity, and ecumenical unity. Concerning the environment, "it is our responsibility as human beings, as persons," he said, "to be stewards of God’s created order." He called for Orthodox Christians to live a life that respects, nurtures, and preserves God’s creation. He also stressed the importance of religious freedom, saying, "Freedom is, after all, at the center of human personhood—freedom is a gift from God, our Creator—it is part of what it means to be a person. And religious liberty—the freedom of conscience and belief, of practice and expression—is an expression of every person’s God-given gift and inalienable right." He then urged Orthodox Christians to serve humanity without an expectation of anything in return. Finally, concerning the theological dialogue between the Ancient Oriental Orthodox Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Patriarch said,
"[W]e are united in our commitment to address the pastoral, liturgical and ecclesiastical issues on which we may ever build our unity in Christ more and more. The dialogue must continue, and we must continue to seek opportunities for mutual exchange. As our knowledge grows, our love will grow as well."
We continue to pray for the peace of the one, only, holy, catholic and apostolic, Orthodox Church of God.