Greek Orthodox Church elects new head

.- The Greek Orthodox Church on Thursday elected a new leader to replace the late Archbishop Christodoulos, the Associated Press reports.

After two rounds of voting, senior clergy chose Metropolitan Bishop Ieronymous of Thebes to become the next Metropolitan of Athens.  Within an hour of the vote, Metropolitan Ieronymous, accompanied by other candidates for the office, appeared on the balcony of the archbishop’s office before cheering crowds.

"In whichever position the church appoints us, no matter how high, we must know that our leader is Christ," the Metropolitan Ieronymous said, according to the Associated Press.

The archbishop will be enthroned on February 16.

Unlike his predecessor Archbishop Christodoulous, Bishop Ieronymous enjoys good relations with the Ecumenical Patriarch in Istanbul.  Patriarch Bartholomew I sent a letter of congratulations to the clergyman upon his election.

Archbishop Christodoulos and Patriarch Bartholomew both worked to heal the schism between the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church. 

Giorgos Moustakis, a theology and sociology professor, told the Associated Press that Orthodox efforts to end the schism are "very, very delicate because there is resistance from within (parts of) the church." He said that despite the pressure, he predicted the new archbishop "won't leave the issue to die."

Moustakis also offered an opinion of Metropolitan Ieronymos’ personality. "He doesn't advocate the Middle Ages, but he's also not a rebel," he told the Associated Press. "I consider him an enlightened conservative."

Archbishop Christodoulos was politically vocal, breaking with church tradition in frequently criticizing the Greek government.  He also charged liberals with undermining Greece’s religious identity.  It is unclear how much his successor will address political issues.

About 97 percent of native-born Greeks are Orthodox Christians, and the Greek Orthodox Church is influential among other Orthodox Churches worldwide.

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