Letter to the Clergy Explaining Why Archbishop Iakovos Participated in the March in Selma, AL

Reverend Father:

Archbishop Iakovos, as you know, was in the forefront of the Memorial Service and the march to the Court House in honor of the late Rev. James Reeb in Selma, Alabama on Monday, March 15, together with the Very Rev. George J. Bacopulos, Chancellor of the Archdiocese. His Eminence participated because as he phrased it on his returns “I felt it was what my people wanted me to do.” The Archbishop also took part in the observance as a President of the World Council of Churches and as a Vice President of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.

It is impossible to reflect effectively the startling, vivid, and emotionally fraught account given personally by the Archbishop and the Chancellor on the impact that their visit to Selma had upon them. It was a story of another world far removed from all of us, but a world which once entered into is in the words of Hamlet, “a bourne from which no traveler returns.” Their portrayal of what they felt in Selma, together with the other Churchmen who went there, verifies from their own personal experience that President Johnson’s designation of the Negros as being the true heroes of this struggle was, in the real sense of the word, true. They were reminded in Selma of the noble words of Byron who before he died in Messalongi as a champion of Greek freedom wrote in one of his last poems, “the land of honorable death is here – up to the field and give away thy breath.”

Enclosed are a statement by Archbishop Iakovos explaining in more detail why he went to Selma; a telegram he sent to President Johnson on the address the Chief Executive made to the Congress on March 15 on the voting bill; and the text of remarks His Eminence made on the nationwide CBS Radio Program “The World Tonight” on March 16, praising the President’s commitment.

Reaction to the Archbishop’s dramatic and striking presence in Selma was widespread praise for his espousal of this vital cause, on behalf of Greek Orthodoxy in America. But this was not the first expression of his heartfelt conviction that we, as good Americans proud to be of Hellenic decent and worthy of the major faith our Greek Orthodoxy stands for, should be untiring proponents of justice, freedom, and equality for all. His concern and interest is reflected in several pastoral letters and encyclicals that have been sent to you on the importance of racial equality and civil rights. Kindly refer to these again if you do not have them well in mind; and if they are not readily available write to us for them.

The prayer and hope of Archbishop Iakovos is that you, as the spiritual leader of your Community, will lead our faithful in the utmost support of the momentous legislation proposed by President Johnson so that in human dignity and in the essentials of democracy the citizens of thos mighty and blessed land, in accordance with the Biblical exhortation “may all be one.”

Faithfully in Christ,
Arthur Dore
Department of Press and Information