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Church of Greece elects a moderate new Αrchbishop February 8, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Religion & Faith.
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Soft-spoken reformist Ieronymos, Bishop of Thebes, chosen in 2nd vote

08-02-08_archbishop_ieronymos.jpg  The newly elected Archbishop of Athens, Ieronymos, holds up a cross as he emerges yesterday from Athens Cathedral, where he was chosen to succeed the late Christodoulos. Ieronymos, 70, is seen as a reformist but more soft-spoken than his predecessor. Ieronymos had been runner-up to Christodoulos in the 1998 elections.

Senior Orthodox clerics yesterday elected a moderate and popular churchman, Bishop Ieronymos of Thebes, to succeed Archbishop Christodoulos, who died last month.

Ieronymos, who had been a runner-up to Christodoulos in the last Archbishopric elections in 1998, was appointed following two rounds of voting at Athens Cathedral.

The 70-year-old cleric, from Viotia in central Greece, garnered 45 out of 74 votes in the first round, compared to 27 votes for his key challenger Bishop Efstathios of Sparta. Ieronymos got 33 in the first round, missing the minimum 38-vote mark.

When a lamp lit up outside the cathedral, indicating that a new Archbishop had been chosen, hundreds of supporters and clerics clapped and cheered. Ieronymos greeted supporters briefly upon emerging from the cathedral before walking on foot to the Archbishop’s residence in Plaka. He then led a service in memory of Christodoulos at the First Cemetery.

Senior Church figures and politicians welcomed the election of the new Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, considered a reformer but less outspoken and media-savvy than Christodoulos.

Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios, the Istanbul-based spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox faithful who had clashed frequently with Christodoulos, welcomed the development. «My esteem for (Ieronymos) is great and longstanding and my hopes for cooperation with him in solving the problems of the Orthodox Church are even greater,» Vartholomaios said. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis also sang the Bishop’s praises. «His faith, devotion to the Church… worthiness and experience will serve him well in his historic mission,» Karamanlis said.

Ieronymos, who holds several degrees from Greek and foreign universities, had criticized as «extreme» the mass rallies organized by Christodoulos in 2000 to protest the state’s decision to delete the reference to religion on citizens’ ID cards.

Church sources said they thought Ieronymos would continue in Christodoulos’s footsteps, boosting ties between the Church and society, particularly with young people. But they also expected him to distinguish clearly the role of the Church from that of the state.

Yesterday’s election of a new Archbishop of Athens in a rapid, clear and procedurally impeccable manner, showed us that the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece is paying attention to the signs of the times and learning a lesson from the mistakes of the recent past. Archbishop Ieronymos is now called upon to lead the Church with modesty, unity and a spirit of reconciliation – this is the mandate handed to him by the Church Hierarchy. He is also expected to respond to the rising expectations of the people, to put his ear to the ground and listen to a changing society, to stand beside the people of Greece and heed their fears and concerns, to cooperate and coexist in a constructive manner with the state.

The speedy and unequivocal election heralds an era of maturation and reorganization for the Church of Greece – and it needs it. The country also needs a mature and stable Orthodox Church that will spread the message of love and solidarity and ensure social consensus. We send our wishes to the new Archbishop that he may follow this path.

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