Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens : biography
Christodoulos (17 January 1939 – 28 January 2008) ( born Christos Paraskevaidis, Χρήστος Παρασκευαΐδης) was Archbishop of Athens and All Greece and as such the primate of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Greece, from 1998 until his death, in 2008.
Death and burial
In his final days, the Archbishop refused to be hospitalised, preferring to remain at his home in Psychiko, where he died on 28 January 2008. After his death the Greek government announced a four day national wake during which his body lay in state at the chapel of the Cathedral of the Annunciation.
His funeral was held on 31 January 2008. It was presided over by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem, Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria, Patriarch Daniel of Romania, and was also attended by the Archbishop of Cyprus Chrysostomos II and the Archbishop of America Demetrios. The election of his successor was carried out by the Synod of the Metropolitans of the Church of Greece on 7 February 2008.
Despite the criticism, Archbishop Christodoulos proved to be one of the most popular archbishops in Greek history, having a particular rapport with young people.
Support for Serbia
The Archbishop played a leading role in supporting Serbia (a mainly Orthodox country), and stoking public opposition to NATO and the Kosovo War of 1999 in which Greece, as a NATO member, played a significant, though largely non-interventionist, role. He also spoke out strongly against the intention of the Greek government under Costas Simitis to follow EU directives, especially where they clashed with what he regarded as traditional Greek policies., BBC News, 1998-05-09 Shortly after his swearing in, Christodoulos stated that it was "a disgrace for the modern Greeks to decide on the basis of what directives from Brussels might ask, at one time or another.
Identity cards controversy
In 2000, a major clash between church and state erupted when the then Greek socialist government sought to follow a decision of the Greek Data Protection Authority, by removing the "Religion" field from the national ID cards carried by Greek citizens. Christodoulos opposed the decision, complaining that socialist prime minister Costas Simitis did not consult with the Greek Church on the matter and claiming that it was part of a wider plan to marginalise the Church from Greek public life; he also stated that the decision was "put forward by neo-intellectuals who want to attack us like rabid dogs and tear at our flesh"., The Guardian, 22 May 2000 The archbishop organised two demonstrations in Athens and Thessaloniki, alongside a majority of bishops of the Church of Greece, supporting the inclusion of religious data on a voluntary basis, and asked for a referendum on the matter. For this purpose he was greatly supported as more than three million Greek citizens signed and asked for a referendum.
In 2001, Christodoulos prompted international criticism after claiming that the ID decision had been instigated by Jews., BBC News, 2001-03-15 The Central Board of the Jewish Community in Greece subsequently sent him a letter on 20 March 2001, asking him to clarify the matter and expressing their opposition to the mandatory writing of religious status in identity cards. The Archbishop replied in a letter that his source was the official web site of the USA Jewish Community where it was stated that the US Jewish Community had asked the Greek Government to remove religious status from Greek identity cards. He also noted that in Israel, the writing of religious status in identity cards is mandatory. The official position of the Greek Church became that the writing of religious status on identity cards should be optional. However, the Greek Government proceeded to remove the writing of religious status completely from new identity cards.
It emerged the same year that despite Christodoulos’ claims that he had no knowledge of nor involvement with human rights violations by the Greek military junta of 1967-1974, because those seven years he was busy studying to become a priest, he had been present in the swearing-in ceremony of the new regime after the swearing-in of the Regime of the Colonels. while he held the office of Arch-Secretary of the "Holy Synod", the collective council of Metropolitan bishops of the Church of Greece. At the same time, he was serving as chief advisor to Archbishop Hieronymus, a regime appointee and supporter.