RIP: Greek Orthodox Patriarch


From NyTimes:

Greek Orthodox Church who helped heal centuries-old grievances with the Roman Catholic Church but stirred controversy with his politically tinged statements and tireless interventions in state affairs, died on Monday. He was 69.

He leaves a very interesting (though mixed) legacy. On the positive side:

Enthroned in 1998, Christodoulos trained as a lawyer but switched to the priesthood in 1961, preaching reform in Greece’s stuffily old-fashioned church and becoming one of the country most popular, albeit divisive, figures in its recent history. A polyglot who surfed the Internet, Archbishop instituted sign-language liturgies for the deaf and made plans for a religious television station, and buoyed the faith’s dwindling numbers with the aura of a rock star. He enlivened sermons with one-liners and animated antics. He cheerfully allowed teenagers to wear miniskirts and body-piercing jewelry to religious services. He embraced rather than disgraced AIDS patients.

He was schooled by Catholic monks and did more to heal the rift between the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic Church than any of his predecessors.

On the other hand:

His blasts of nationalist rhetoric, most strikingly against the European Union and the Turks — he called them “eastern barbarians” — irritated Greece’s European Union partners and the Greek government’s efforts to improve relations with Turkey. A vocal critic of NATO’s 1999 bombing campaign in Kosovo, Christodoulos directed the church to provide funds and aid to Orthodox Serbia.

In that sense he strikes me very much like John Paul II and Benedict–liberalizing within their denomination/church on a number of issues, deeply humane and concerned ethically, authoritarian-leaning in terms of actual real power within the institution (i.e. possibly patronizing liberalism) with a deep streak of traditionalism and seeing their church as the only means of salvation for their populace. A certain romanticism of the Middle Ages–whether Papal from Rome or Byzantine from Greece.

His name incidentally means “slave of the anointed one”. Prayers for the Greek church in their time of mourning.

Update I:  Gordon Hinckley The Prophet (and head) of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (aka Mormons) died yesterday.  Must be the week for church leaders to go to their reward.

Published in: on January 28, 2008 at 12:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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