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11 April, 1998
Archbishop Serapheim of Athens and All Greece died early yesterday after 23 years at the helm of the Autocephalus Orthodox Church of Greece. He was 85.
His health had been failing him in recent years while undergoing dialysis treatment for renal failure. His death was announced at 3 a.m. by the president of the Laikon hospital, where he spent the last 46 days, who told reporters: "The Archbishop is sleeping in peace".
The Archbishop's body was taken to the Athens Cathedral, where it will lie in state for three days until his funeral on Monday with honors of a head of state.
Four days of public mourning have been declared for the death of the Archbishop and Interior Minister Alekos Papadopoulos said the Archbishop's funeral would be paid for by the state and that he would be buried with the honors normally reserved for a head of state.
The day of his burial, Monday, will be a public holiday for public services, Mr. Papadopoulos added.
The Holy Synod decided that the election of a new Archbishop will occur on Tuesday, April 28 to replace Serapheim. He will be temporarily succeeded by the Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Messinia, who is the eldest bishop ordained among the members of the Synod.
Seventy-seven bishops will cast their vote in a secret ballot.
Serapheim: A wartime resistance fighter, ecclesiastical pioneer
Archbishop Serapheim was born Vissarion Tikas in 1913 in the village of Artesiano, near the central Thessaly town of Karditsa.
He graduated from the Theological School of Athens University in 1938, three years before Nazi forces occupied Greece. Serapheim spent the early war years in Athens, helping distribute food to the poor of his parish during the occupation. Ordained a priest in 1942, he left the city to join the resistance forces under resistance leader Napoleon Zervas. Apart from his pastoral duties, Serapheim also undertook missions for the resistance, more than once risking capture by the occupation forces.
In 1949 he was made bishop, serving in Arta until 1958 when he transferred to Ioannina. He left his mark in both cities, seeing to the founding of the Ioannina University, schools, hospitals, day nurseries, orphanages and hospices.
Works such as these, combined with his dynamic personality, led to his appointment in January 1974 as head of the Orthodox Church of Greece, where he struggled to restore order after disturbances within its ranks during the 1967-74 military dictatorship
and in the wake of the resignation of Archbishop Ieronimos Kotsonis.
Greece's longest-serving Archbishop, his skills enabled him to weather the many storms that plagued the Church.
In the early 1980s, he fought against the introduction of civil weddings as the only form of legal marriage. Legislation was eventually passed giving equal legal status to both religious and civil marriages.
In 1985, he startled the usually conservative Greek Orthodox faithful in 1985 when he announced he had become an organ donor, paving the way for other Greeks to do so.
Serapheim also organized several missions to help the peoples of the Balkans.
The establishments of shelters for the homeless, homes for the aged were among his other philanthropic works.
The onset of kidney failure in the early 1990s did not deter the archbishop, who continued to carry out his duties despite calls from prospective successors for him to step down, particularly in recent months.
While at the helm of the Church of Greece he swore into office one dictator, seven presidents of the republic and nine Prime ministers.
He was the 18th Archbishop of the Church of Greece since it became the Autocephalus Church of Greece on July 27, 1833.
Source: Athens News Agency