Thursday, January 31, 2008

Archbishop Christodoulos, Rest in Peace

Christos Paraskevaidis was born in northeastern Greece in 1939.

He responded to the Lord’s call to the holy priesthood and became the youngest head of the 10,000,000 or more Greek Orthodox Christians spread throughout the world in 1998.

He died at his home in Athens on Monday, January 28th, 2008.

He was diagnosed with cancer in June of 2007.

He had tentatively scheduled a liver transplant in America but canceled them when the cancer was found to have spread so rapidly.

Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said of the Archbishop, "He was an enlightened church leader whose work brought the church closer to society, closer to modern problems and to young people."

His comments concerning the Archbishops dedication to the young were echoed in the huge swell of expressions of prayer and solidarity which were received on the occasion of his death.

The Archbishop was an ardent defender of the rights of the Church throughout his often adversarial relationship with the secular authorities.

He never backed down.

The Nation of Greece which he loved so deeply will mourn his loss with funeral plans befitting a head of State.

All businesses will be closed.

Throughout Athens, flags flew at half-mast and people wept openly as bells tolled to honor the servant of God. Mourners clothed in black flooded the Metropolitan Cathedral.

In interviews with Greek TV one mourner said "It is like I have lost my father," and another added "He kept our faith and tradition strong and alive…At a time of instability, the Church was our haven."

Greek Catholics as well as other Catholics throughout the world joined with their Orthodox brethren in mourning his loss. He will be remembered, among other things, for having moved from a hostile relationship with the Holy See to an increasingly warm one in the latter years of his life and apostolate.

Most observers point to the landmark visit to Greece by Pope John Paul in 2001, which led to a growing dialogue between the communions, as a turning point in the Archbishops relationship with the Catholic Church. The Catholic and Orthodox Churches divided in the 1054.

Prayer and work toward restoring full communion between the Churches was a heartfelt hope of the Pope John Paul II and has become a major goal of his successor Pope Benedict XVI. The press officer of the Catholic Church of Greece told Greek television that the steps taken by the Archbishop were "historic".

The Archbishop was known to have had a burden for the young. He reached out to them calling on them to return to the ancient Faith "as you are earrings and all." He had a sense of humor as well and was known to often salt his sermons with jokes.

The prayers of Christians throughout the world are joined with their Orthodox brethren in these days of mourning his loss and honoring his service.

In addition, from throughout the Christian community come prayers that his successor will be chosen quickly and will continue the important work which the Archbishop began.
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