July 4, 2002
My dearest fellow Chaplains,
A bit more than two weeks has passed since returning back to home base after being together in Finland. For me, these two weeks have been full of preparation. On the one hand, I prepare for a difficult three-week stay in the US for family reasons. Foremost, I have been in the process of organizing my thoughts and workload in light of my new responsibilities as coordinator of the ENHCC.
Words cannot express the honor and privilege I felt with the unanimous outburst of confidence shown upon my nomination. For this, allow me to humbly thank you all. After leaving Turku, the sense of companionship and the bond of genuine friendship have remained with me. It is this companionship and friendship that will be a central point of reference for me throughout these next two years.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate, whom I represent, also shares the honor and privilege in serving you and our Network. His All-Holiness, Patriarch Bartholomew has asked that I convey to you his appreciation in bestowing such a holy task upon the Orthodox Church, reconfirming his desire to assist the Network in whatever way possible.
The 7th Consultation was the culmination of many years of work by those who truly agonize and believe in the necessity of health care chaplaincy. After the Cretan Consultation, where our differences and similarities where laid on the table and incorporated in the formation of a European Network, the Turku Consultation gave us a common language and common goal. One of the most moving moments of the 7th Consultation was when we had all signed the final document and thanked God for His Goodness, each in his and her own language. As each of us proclaimed a blessing, it became more obvious that we were one united body in diversity, a diversity, which does not create animosity and separation, but which enriches our Network even more.
Our Network is both a witness and a challenge within the area of health care throughout Europe, not to mention the world at large. It is a witness of God's philanthropic love for those who are ill and those who minister to them on all levels of care. It is a witness that there are still people today who hold fast to the value of self-denying caring. Our Network is also a challenge. It is a challenge to the Churches we represent and to the health systems we serve. For our presence as a united body is a living and constant reminder of the collective responsibility in developing and maintaining professional health care rooted in a deep concern for all fellow men. It is also a challenge to all of Europe. Our Network expresses a truth most often forgotten: in sharing and respecting our different experiences and traditions, we can learn from and help one another more effectively. For our uniqueness makes us something more than an "institution" or "organization". Our world does not need another "institution" or "organization". It is in need of genuine and articulated love, a love expressed in mutual sharing and common understanding.
The question we must answer is how our Network can witness and challenge others, on all levels, to express the love and offer the care so much needed. How can we support one another in our ministry? How can we assist our health systems in recognizing the importance of the spiritual and existential aspect of the care offered? The answers to these vital questions must be answered in a collective and a constructive way.
Allow me to reassure you that I will work closely with the members of the Network Committee in answering these questions and implementing ways in which we can deepen our understanding of one another and of our chaplaincy. Allow me also to assure you I will be corresponding with you on a regular basis and that my lines of communication will always be open for your personals input, suggestions and constructive criticism.
In closing, I humbly ask for your prayers as I begin this new and untrodden task. Relying on your cooperation and God's grace, I remain dedicated to our Network, to our ministry and to each of you individually,
Fr. Stavros Kofinas
Coordinator of the European Network of Health Care Chaplaincy