Monday, June 25, 2007

Greek Orthodox Church Leader Has Cancer

The leader of Greece's influential Orthodox Church, Archbishop Christodoulos, has cancer in his large intestine and liver, doctors said Thursday.

Christodoulos, who has helped thaw centuries of tension with the Vatican but is often accused of meddling in domestic politics, has been hospitalized since June 9, and has already undergone intestinal surgery.

The two cancers were not directly related and had not spread from one site to the other, said the head surgeon at the state-run Aretaion hospital, Dionysis Vorros.

Hospital doctors described the church leader's condition as treatable, saying he would remain in intensive care for at least three more days and likely be allowed to return home next week.

The 68-year-old Orthodox leader's illness has led to an outpouring of sympathy in a country where 97 percent of the population is baptized Orthodox Christian. Even officials who have criticized him for meddling in state affairs have visited him in the hospital.

Elected Church leader in 1998, Christodoulos received the late Pope John Paul II in 2001 in the first visit by a pontiff to the Orthodox country in nearly 1,300 years.

Christodoulos followed up last year with a historic visit to the Vatican, where he met Pope Benedict XVI.


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