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Athens News Agency: News in English, 08-01-28

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] Archbishop Chistodoulos passes away
  • [02] Karamanlis to receive Bill Gates on Mon.
  • [03] Papandreou criticism of gov't
  • [04] GNTO bureau chiefs in Paris

  • [01] Archbishop Chistodoulos passes away

    Archbishop Chistodoulos passes away

    Ailing Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos passed away on Monday at 5:15 a.m. (3:15 GMT) after battling cancer for the past seven months. Earlier, his attending physicians, close associates and numerous clerics hastily assembled at the Archbishop's official residence in the upscale Athens district of Paleo Psyhico, as Christodoulos had declined to leave his home for a hospital in his last days.

    His body will lay in state for a period of three days, while a funeral with head of state honors was announced.

    Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos was born in the northeastern city of Xanthi in 1939. He studied law and theology, obtaining a doctorate in theology, in fact, along with degrees in French and English. A young Christodoulos was ordained as a deacon in 1961 and as a presbyter (senior priest) in 1965.

    He served as a homilist (preacher) at an influential parish in southern Athens (Paleo Faliro) for nine years, before holding the important position of Holy Synod secretary for seven years.

    At the age of 35 in 1974 Christodoulos was elected as the Metropolitan of Dimitriada, the bishopric based in the central Greece port city of Volos, where he served until his election, in 1998, as the head of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Greece.

    Christodoulos was a prolific writer and columnist, penning numerous scholarly articles in both church publications and periodicals around Greece and abroad. His best-known works include "Hellenism Proselytised: The Passage from Antiquity to Christianity", "The Soul of Europe", and his opus "Historical and Canonical Consideration of the Old Calendarist Issue During its Emergence and Development in Greece", which was his doctoral dissertation. He also participated in missionary work overseas.

    Christodoulos' presence in the predominately Greek Orthodox nation of 11 million was immediate, as his rhetorical skills and amiable personality were employed as potent communication tools to reinvigorate the Greek Church's venerated but often uninspiring role in the country, and especially its emphasis to reach out to younger generations.

    The influential Christodoulos' call towards teenagers to "come as you are, even with your earring" and his frequent visits to schools caused his popularity to soar in his first years on the Archbishop's throne. Along with an emphasis on reaching out to younger people, Christodoulos was also credited with establishing and further strengthening Church-affiliated charities, including ones aiding people on society's fringes, such as drug addicts, unwed mothers and battered women. The culmination of heightened philanthropic efforts under Christodoulos' tenure came with the establishment of the Greek Church NGO "Allileggii" (Solidarity), which quickly engaged in humanitarian relief efforts on a global scale.

    As the "cyber era" exploded throughout most of the world in the late 1990s, Christodoulos cast aside the Church's usual cautiousness vis-à-vis modernity to eagerly embrace new communication technologies, promoting the establishment of the Church's first-ever website, a digital library available in nine languages that includes art and music archives, as well as a portal for cultural news in Greek and English.

    Heading towards the dawn of the new millennium, Christodoulos became even more outspoken in his views - whether from the pulpit or in statements at well-attended events -- regarding the Church and its relations with the state and society, with reactions ranging from jubilant enthusiasm, by the Orthodox faithful, to cries of obscurantism by his secular critics in the country.

    Two major clashes punctuated Christodoulos' tenure as head of the Greek Church: his quarrel, often taking on a personal tone, with the Simitis government, shortly after the general election in 2000, over the issue of a religious affiliation listing on police-issued ID cards; and, in 2004, a "chill" in relations between the Autocephalous Church of Greece and its spiritual elder, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in Istanbul, the world's most ancient Orthodox Church. The latter dispute was ostensibly over canonical jurisdiction in a number of northern Greece bishoprics.

    The socialist government more-or-less ignored heated Church protests and proceeded with the removal of the religious affiliation from ID cards and essentially ended the controversy, whereas a full rapprochement between the "sister Churches" of Greece and the Ecumenical Patriarchate was achieved in late 2004, following mediation by the education and religious affairs minister at the time, Marietta Yiannakou.

    A milestone in Christodoulos' tenure came with the unprecedented official visit of late Pope John Paul II to Athens in 2001, a visit that had appeared unthinkable decades before.

    The Archbishop brushed aside heated protests from within the Church's more zealous quarters and lent his support for the pontifical visit, personally taking the podium at a Holy Synod session to win over the Greek Church's sceptical bishops.

    With a gracious Christodoulos at his side, John Paul II expressed the Roman Catholic Church's historic apology for past wrongs, a defining moment in recent ecclesiastical history, and one that essentially allowed for a genuine thaw in 21st century relations between the Churches of East and West. Christodoulos reciprocated in 2006 with an official visit to the Vatican and an audience with new Pope Benedict XVI.

    The Archbishop's life was forever changed on a sunny Saturday, the 9th of June, 2006. Christodoulos fell ill while preparing for a visit to the Patriarchate of Alexandria. Immediate medical tests revealed that he suffered from advanced cancer in the large intestine and an unrelated malignant growth in the liver.

    A first operation to remove the intestinal cancer was deemed successful, while consultations amongst his attending physicians finally led to a decision to seek treatment in the United States, and specifically at an internationally acclaimed clinic in Miami, Florida.

    Initial despair with the news of the cancer turned into guarded optimism after the first operation and quickly manifested into a strong conviction amongst the public opinion and Christodoulos' close associates that the Archbishop was on the road to a full recovery with a pending a liver transplant in America.

    Christodoulos departed Greece on Aug. 18 aboard a state executive jet, headed for Miami and Jackson Memorial Hospital, where Greek-American transplant specialist Andreas Jackis waited.

    Fifty days later Christodoulos is quickly prepared for surgery when a donor match is found, only to be whisked from the operating theatre without the hoped-for procedure taking place - a dejected Jackis merely announces to waiting cameras that the liver cancer has spread, making the transplant impossible.

    The inevitable occurs on the last Monday of January 2008, a chilly morning in the Greek capital and several months after the initial diagnosis.


    [02] Karamanlis to receive Bill Gates on Mon.

    Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will receive Microsoft founder Bill Gates on Monday morning at his Maximos Mansion office, and will later attend the inauguration of the US multinational's innovative centre in Athens.

    At noon, Karamanlis will meet with Merchant Marine and Island Policy Minister George Voulgarakis and at 1 p.m. with Cypriot presidential candidate Ioannis Kasoulides.

    Meanwhile, speaking in Istanbul, Turkey on Friday, Karamanlis referred to the development of economic and trade relations and the promotion of investments as the groundwork for broader, mutually beneficial cooperation between Greece and Turkey.

    Karamanlis addressed the Turkish-Greek Business Forum in Istanbul on the final day of his groundbreaking three-day official visit to Turkey. The Forum was also attended by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

    Addressing the Forum, Karamanlis said that the expediency of such meetings was not limited to the purely economic level, stressing that the development of economic and commercial relations and promotion of investments formed the groundwork for broader, mutually beneficial, cooperation between the two countries and peoples.

    I believe that our economic collaborations pave the way for greater rapprochement between us and highlight in the most visible way the lost ground that tension and friction cost us. In that sense, they lay the groundwork for constant deepening of our bilateral relations," Karamanlis said.

    ‘he prime minister said that a substantial institutional framework of cooperation has already been formed, but added that he looked forward to its expansion to all sectors of mutual interest, so that there will be no ambiguity or uncertainty over the legal framework regulating bilateral economic relations.

    He said that the dialogue on advancing the economic relations between the two countries must be continuous, and noted the Greek side's proposal that the 11th conference of the Greek-Turkish Cooperation Group on Trade and Economic Cooperation be convened in Athens in early February, while the 4th conference of the Greek-Turkish inter-ministerial economic committee was due to be held in Turkey in the first quarter of 2008.

    Caption: ANA-MPA file photo of Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.

    [03] Papandreou criticism of gov't

    Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Sunday addressed a party meeting in the western working-class Athens district of Ilion, where he both repeated standing criticism against the government while at the same time declaring opposition to any creation of "groupings" within his own party.

    The statements come a little over two months after Papandreou was again re-elected as PASOK leader, vending off a challenge from top deputy and former minister Evangelos Venizelos, primarily.

    Among others, Papandreou stressed that supporters want PASOK powerful, self-sufficient and autonomous "during a time when the country is sliding and when citizens feel disappointed..."

    He also again sharply criticised what he called a "handful of judges" who are attempting to manipulate the independent judiciary with the government. Additionally, he accused the ND government of attempting to buy-off various mass media outlets.

    Along those lines, he made several references to the ongoing Zachopoulos affair and the latest press reports dealing with a ND deputy, Costas Koukodimos.

    After referring to certain policies of past PASOK government he painted in a negative light, Papandreou said there is "no room" for rekindling the leadership squabbles evident before the Nov. 11 internal party election.

    "Our new course does not allow margins for the development of personal strategies; does not allow internal opposition or 'unofficial strikes' by top cadres against (facing off with ruling) New Democracy; we do not accept strategies of defeat," he said at an event organised by the party's prefectural organisations.

    Finally, he said there are "certain parties" that want a "rematch" of the Nov. 11 party election.

    Gov't response

    "Mr. Papandreou, with his speech today, has again attacked the independent judiciary. The internal party considerations that have ensnared him in this strategy are, of course, obvious to all Greek citizens," government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos later responded in a press release.

    "The only thing he (Papandreou) is accomplishing with this systematic disrespect towards the institutions is to clearly demonstrate the big difference, in terms of quality, that divides this government from previous PASOK governments," Roussopoulos added.

    Caption: PASOK leader George Papandreou addresses a PASOK event on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2008. ANA-MPA / M .KIAOU.

    [04] GNTO bureau chiefs in Paris

    Tourism Development Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos met here on Saturday evening with the general directors of all central 23 bureaus operated overseas by the Greek National Tourism Organisation (GNTO), Athens' tourism promotions vehicles around the world.

    Organisational issues and better planning dominated talks at the meeting, as well as upgrades to the bureaus themselves and increased staffing.

    New GNTO bureaus are planned for China, Russia, South Africa and India.

    Caption: A file picture dated 03 May 2006 shows the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. ANA-MPA/ EPA/HORACIO VILLALOBOS

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