31 January, 2008
Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos arrived at Athens airport on Wednesday night, heading an Ecumenical Patriarchate delegation, to attend the funeral service for Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos, who passed away last Monday, that will take place at the Athens Cathedral on Thursday morning.
Vartholomeos said on arrival in Athens that his death is a great loss for both the Greek Church and for Orthodoxy in its entirety, adding that he passed away at an age when he could still offer a great deal to the Church and the people of God.
The Patriarch further said that on Thursday all will be praying for his soul to rest and stressed that he hopes that God will enlighten the electing delegates to enable them to elect the most worthy and the most capable person to succeed Archbishop Christodoulos.
Shortly after 7 in the evening, the Patriarch officiated at a religious service held in memory of Archbishop Christodoulos at the chappel of Saint Eleftherios, next to the Athens Cathedral, where his body had been taken early in the afternoon.
The Patriarch was accompanied by the Archbishop of America Demetrius, the Archbishop of Crete Irineos, the Metropolitan of Pergamos Ioannis, the Metropolitan of Myron Chrysostomos and by clergymen of the Church of Greece.
Messages of condolences for the late Archbishop Christodoulos continued to pour in from international political and religious leaders this week, with Pope Benedict XVI sending a telegram to Metropolitan Serapheim of Karystia (southern Evia) and Skyros, the temporary prelate of the Church of Greece's Holy Synod, expressing his condolences, while praising the late ecclesiastic leader's work towards Orthodox-Catholic rapprochement.
In his telegram, whose arrival was announced on Wednesday, Pope Benedict stressed that he is spiritually close 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 friendlier ties between the churches of East and West.
"The fraternal greeting which His Beatitude gave my predecessor, Pope John Paul II, on the occasion of the latter's 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 ..." Pope Benedict wrote.
The Pope 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 Archbishop's funeral this Thursday will be attended by a Vatican delegation headed by Cardinal Walter Kasper, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
Queen Elizabeth II also sent her condolences to the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece over the death of Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos.
"I am saddened to hear of the death of His Beatitude Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece. I send my sincere condolences to you and to the Greek people."
AHI, New York Mayor express sorrow over death of Archbishop Christodoulos
The Washington-based American Hellenic Institute (AHI) expressed sorrow over the death of Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece, in messages released on Wednesday.
The institute stresses in a statement that Christodoulos was a hierarch of great spiritual ethos and brought a new spirit and enthusiasm to the teaching of Orthodoxy to the Greek people.
Under his leadership the Church made a special effort to get closer to the young and apply the Orthodox teaching on contemporary issues, points out the statement, adding that the Archbishop’s contribution to Orthodoxy and Greece will always mark the enormous legacy he has left us with, the AHI statement said.
Meanwhile, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg had a telephone communication with Archbishop Demetrios of America to whom he expressed his deep sorrow over the death of Archbishop Christodoulos and requested him to convey his condolences to the family of the deceased and the members of the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece.
Source: Athens News Agency