Greece's Orthodox Church leader Christodoulos dies at age 69

Monday, January 28, 2008

Christodoulos, Archbishop of Athens and all Greece, 1939-2008.

The head of the Orthodox Church of Greece, Archbishop Christodoulos, died of cancer on Monday in his home in Athens, at the age of 69.

A strong defender of the role of the church in Greece, Christodoulos died at his home in north Athens, a few months after plans for a liver transplant in Miami, United States were cancelled.

The Greek Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis said in a statement that "Archbishop Christodoulos was an enlightened church leader whose work brought the church closer to society, closer to modern problems and to young people" while opposition leader George Papandreou praised the late Archbishop and his personality.

Flags in all state buildings flew at half-mast as well as on the Acropolis and across the country as bells tolled. Condolences poured in as crowds of black-clad mourners gathered at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens where his funeral will be held on Thursday. The government announced an official four-day mourning and Archbishop's funeral will take place under the status of head of the state honours.

Born in 1939 in the town of Xanthi, northern Greece, Christodoulos Paraskevaides was for many years Metropolitan of Demetrias in Volos, until 1998 when he became Archbishop of Athens and all Greece. A controversial personality himself, Christodoulos worked to mend ties with the Vatican and he also grudgingly agreed to a landmark visit by Pope John Paul II to Greece in 2001 that marked a turning point in relations between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches following the Great Schism of 1054 that split Christianity.