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Romanian Orthodox Church

27 January 2004

His Beatitude Teoctist, Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church
A message, urging to love and tolerance for those suffering from AIDS/HIV 

Romania, 27 January 2004 

Beloved brothers and sisters, 

We are still at the beginning of the year, at a time when each one of us looks forward to the things he or she wishes or must fulfil, for his or her material and spiritual wealth. It is a legitimate wish of a human being to look for his or her own good. But, at the same time, it is a duty of every Christian to look for the good of the neighbour, thus following the great and holy law given to us by Christ: "Love your neighbour as you love yourself!" (Luke 10: 27). 

This year brings new challenges on the path towards achieving what is good for some of our fellow human beings. We refer to those suffering from the terrible AIDS. For them, the desired good is a fundamental one: survival. But the fight they put up against such a disease is unequal. They can only win with our support, and their victory represents one more day, one more month or one more year of life. Consequently, the international community dedicated the month of December of the passed year to the fight against AIDS, but also against intolerance which some of our brothers and sisters manifest towards those touched by this real scourge of today's world.  

The Holy Apostle Paul urges us, by saying: "Help carry one another's burdens, and in this way you will obey the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2). But many of those who are ill do not have anyone to help them in bearing the heavy burden, because their fellows avoid them, and the communities where they belong marginalize them. Did the Saviour avoid the ill ones, fearing not to become Himself ill? Did He reject them, when they were asking for help and comfort? Certainly not! On the contrary, "Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth His hand, and touched them." (Mark 1:41). 

We have, therefore, the duty to accept them among us and to help all those suffering. In this sense, our Church offers everyone an example of self-sacrificing service for the good of one's neighbour, through the pastoral and spiritual activity of the devout priests unfolded in social establishments and hospitals, especially in the wards for AIDS treatment. Following the example of the Saviour Jesus Christ, day by day, they watch over the sick, giving them comfort and encouraging them to face the disease. This is, many times, the only help, but the greatest proof of the love we can offer them. Even so, from different unsustainable reasons, some of us avoid them. That is why we believe that the example of these servants of the holy altars is an urge to be followed by all those among whom people suffering from AIDS live. 

Christ identifies Himself with these brothers and sisters of ours, when He says: "I was sick, and you visited me" (Matthew 25:36), or "I tell you, whenever you did this for one of the least of these my brethren, you did it for me" (Matthew 25:40). We are all Christ's friends. He loves us all, in the same degree. If we banish them, we banish Him! If we do not care about them, we do not care about Christ! If we do not love them, it is Christ we do not love! We should never forget that they are our neighbours and they need love and understanding. 

May the God of mercy and pity, Who embraces us all with His overwhelming love, to give all of us health and forgiveness of sins, to the healing of our souls and bodies.