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Athens News Agency: News in English, 08-01-31

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] Funeral of Archbishop Christodoulos
  • [02] Holy Synod to elect new Archbishop Feb. 7

  • [01] Funeral of Archbishop Christodoulos

    The funeral of Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece will be held on Thursday at the Athens Metropolitan Cathedral, with full honours of Head of State, followed by the burial ceremony at Athens' First Cemetery.

    Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos will be officiating over the service and will deliver the eulogy, while Metropolitan Anthimos of Thessaloniki, Education and Religious Affairs minister Evripides Stylianidis, Parliament president Dimitris Sioufas and Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis will also speak at the funeral service.

    Afterwards, there will be a funeral procession to Athens' First Cemetery, with the late Archbishop's casket carried on a gun-carriage, where the burial will take place.

    The funeral is attended by President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, prime minister Costas Karamanlis and government officials, political party leaders and representatives, the parliament presidium and MPs, as well as the Prelates of the Orthodox Churches around the world.

    All public services and schools remained closed on Thursday in mourning.

    Archbishop Christodoulos passed away at dawn on Mondayat the age of 69 at his home in Psychico, having declined to be hospitalised in his last days, after a seven-month battle with cancer.

    Caption: Thousands of faithful gathered outside the Athens Metropolitan Cathedral for the funeral of Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece. (ANA-MPA/K. Mavrona)

    [02] Holy Synod to elect new Archbishop Feb. 7

    The Holy Synod of the Church of Greece will convene on February 7 to elect a new Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, following the passing away of Archbishop Christodoulos, after a seven-month battle with cancer.

    The Holy Synod of the Church of Greece held an extensive meeting on Monday following the death of Archbishop Christodoulos, during which it set the date for electing a new Archbishop.

    Christodoulos will be buried at the Athens First cemetery on Thursday immediately after the funeral service, while the Holy Synod has requested those wanting to send a wreath to instead make a donation to some charitable cause or foundation.

    Thessaloniki's metropolitan Anthimos announced that the election for the new head of the Greek Orthodox Church will be beld on February 7 at the Athens Metropolitan Cathedral.

    The late Archbishop was born Christos Paraskevaidis on January 16, 1939 in the northeastern city of Xanthi. He studied law and theology, obtaining a doctorate in theology,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.

    The late Archbishop was born Christos Paraskevaidis on January 16, 1939 in the northeastern city of Xanthi. He studied law and theology, obtaining a doctorate in theology,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, becoming the Church's youngest ever Archbishop at the age of 59.

    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-?-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, 2007. 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 Tzakis 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 Tzakis merely announces to waiting cameras that the liver cancer has spread, making the transplant impossible.

    Christodoulos returned to Greece shortly afterwards, where he spent his days at home in prayer and contemplation, interspersed with visits by government and political officials, church officials and friends, refusing to be admitted to hospital but opting instead for treatment at home.

    He died at his home in the Psychico suburb of Athens, at 5:15 a.m. on Monday, January 28, 2008, having steadfastly refused to be moved to a hospital after his condition started deteriorating and preferring treatment at home.

    Caption: File photo of the late Archbishop Christodoulos (ANA-MPA/EPA)

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