Greece is in mourning today as it laments the loss of the head of the Greek Orthodox Church, Archbishop Christodoulos. Pope Benedict XVI has sent a telegram to expressing his condolences and praising Christodoulos’ work towards Catholic-Orthodox unity.
The passing of the leader of the Greek Orthodox Church was not unexpected since he was engaged in a 7 month battle against cancer. On Sunday, he was moving in and out of consciousness and suffering from liver failure, according to Church officials. Yesterday, at the age of 69, the archbishop passed away.
Upon learning of the death of Archbishop Christodoulos, the Pope sent a telegram to His Eminence Seraphim, metropolitan of Karystia and Skyros.
In his telegram, Pope Benedict gave his assurances of his spiritual closeness to all those mourning the death "of this distinguished pastor of the Church of Greece" and expressed his gratitude for the Orthodox leader’s efforts to achieve unity.
"The fraternal welcome which His Beatitude gave my predecessor Pope John Paul II on the occasion of his visit to Athens in May 2001, and the return visit of Archbishop Christodoulos to Rome in December 2006, opened a new era of cordial co-operation between us, leading to increased contacts and improved friendship in the search for closer communion in the context of the growing unity of Europe,” the Pontiff wrote.
The Holy Father also offered his prayers and those of “Catholics around the world”… “that the Orthodox Church of Greece will be sustained by the grace of God in continuing to build on the pastoral achievements of the late archbishop, and that in commending the noble soul of His Beatitude to our heavenly Father's loving mercy you will be comforted by the Lord's promise to reward His faithful servants".
The Prime Minister of Greece, Kostas Karamanlis, also announced that all of Greece would join in mourning the late archbishop for three days saying: “The archbishop brought the church closer to society, closer to modern problems and to the youth.”
The funeral of Christodoulos will be held this Thursday and be celebrated by the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I.