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Obituaries / Archbishop Christodoulos, 1939 - 2008

Leader of Greece's Orthodox Church

January 29, 2008|Tracy Wilkinson and Paul Tugwell | Special to The Times

"My dear Christians," he told cheering crowds, "do not bow your heads to the forces of evil. . . . The forces of globalization and religious marginalization are trying to take away our society's Christian identity . . . because they hate God."

In 2005, Christodoulos was forced to face the most serious scandal to hit the church in recent times. Numerous priests were accused of a slew of crimes, including bribery, embezzlement, trial-fixing, trafficking antiquities, and involvement in drug and sex crimes. Though never implicated in any wrongdoing, the archbishop was attacked for having turned a blind eye to the problems. Eventually he made a public apology for failing to have taken tougher action against clerics and promised to clean up the mess.

In protest, the Greek Communist Party walked out of parliament when Christodoulos entered to swear in a new president in a 2005 ceremony. But on Monday, in keeping with the protocol in a country where the church is a pillar of society, Communist Party leader Aleka Papariga said: "I express my sympathy for the death of Archbishop Christodoulos."

Christodoulos was diagnosed with liver and intestinal cancer during an operation to remove a polyp last summer, and was awaiting a liver transplant in Miami in October when doctors discovered that the cancer had spread. The transplant was called off.

The Holy Synod, the decision-making body of the Greek Orthodox Church, met in a special session Monday afternoon and is to reconvene Feb. 7 to elect a successor to Christodoulos, the Athens News Agency reported.

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tracy.wilkinson@latimes.com

Times staff writer Wilkinson reported from Rome and special correspondent Tugwell from Athens.

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