Priest Mikhail Vladimirov:
All Those Who Die at the Hands of Terrorists Are Innocents,
Whomever They May Be
Forty-nine people were victims of violence at Pulse night club in Orlando, FL, in the early hours of Sunday, June 12, 2016. Fr Mikhail Vladimirov, a clergyman of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, Rector of Holy Trinity Church in Franklin, NY, discusses the proper Christian attitude towards such events.
All those who die at the hands of terrorists—insane shooters and bombers—as well as those who die of natural elemental forces, are innocents, whatever manner they had lived their lives. Their lives are tragically cut short, which left them with no time for repentance, so we absolutely must pray for them, that the Lord forgives their earthly sins.
Every person constructs his own relationship with God, and we are not given the right to judge their relationship, especially if a person is mercilessly killed. When the Thief who was crucified beside Christ uttered the words “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom” (Luke 23:42), no one but the Mother of God and St John the Theologian, who were present, heard this, and Christ’s response: “Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). This is the same situation: we don’t know what words may have uttered by any of the forty-nine victims in the last moments of life. That is why we must pray for them as we do for all people who die under tragic circumstances.
In my opinion, we must delete from discussion of this tragedy politics, sexual orientation or nationality. A tragedy took place, a man walked into a club and indiscriminately shot 49 people. Had he done so in any other kind of night club, there would be no question as to how the Church views these deaths—without giving thought to how many of them may have been adulterers, thieves, killers, etc.
It is not for us to judge the people who were killed. Our task is to pray that the Lord forgives all their transgressions. But we must discern between personal prayer and the prayers of the Church; if these victims were not members of the Orthodox Church, then, naturally, they cannot be commemorated liturgically. This is because each person is given a choice in his life, and if they did not elect to become members of the Church, we cannot violate this choice after their death and ascribe them to have been members of the Church, for they declined to do so in life.
Polina Borovikova, New York