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Greece’s new elected Archbishop calls for unity, truth February 11, 2008

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Greece’s newly elected Archbishop Ieronymos yesterday led his final Sunday service at the cathedral of Livadia, where he has been a local Bishop for nearly three decades, stressing the need for unity within the Church and good relations with Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios.

Referring to his new role, Ieronymos said he regarded himself as “equal among equals… a coordinator” and stressed his desire to “work collectively and with unity.”

The 70-year-old cleric said the Church should do everything possible to protect the role of the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarchate, saying its existence was “a blessing” for the Greek Orthodox Church. Vartholomaios had clashed frequently with the late Archbishop Christodoulos.

In an apparent reference to the wave of recent corruption scandals, Ieronymos said institutions and laws should be respected. “We are living in an era of confusion where lies can be presented as truth and bad as good… institutions are good and should be supported and laws are also good and should be observed,” he said.

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

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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.

Greece’s New Archbishop elected February 7, 2008

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Bishop Ieronymos of Thebes, has been elected by the Holy Synod, as the new Archbishop of Athens and All Greece securing 45 votes.

Holy Synod went to polls today to choose Christodoulos successor > All four candidates vying to succeed the late Archbishop Christodoulos yesterday made last-ditch efforts to secure votes ahead of today’s elections.

The Holy Synod convened at 9 a.m. today to conduct the 20th election of an Archbishop to head the Greek Orthodox Church. A total of 75 bishops participatee in the polls, with three abstaining due to illness.

The Bishop of Thebes, Ieronymos, and the Bishop of Sparta, Efstathios, were the strongest candidates of the four clerics who have said they will run. The two other hopefuls were Bishop Anthimos of Thessaloniki and Bishop Ignatios of Dimitrias.

Until late last night, the camps of all four candidates reportedly sought to convince undecided Bishops to back them in the polls. Despite the clear predominance of Bishops Ieronymos and Efstathios, Church sources said that it was anyone’s game. “No one can predict what will happen within the confines of the cathedral – in an Archbishopric election, the best prediction is the result,” an experienced cleric said.

The Bishops casted their ballots in a process overseen by a three-cleric committee along with the Education and Religious Affairs Minister Evripidis Stylianidis.

A candidate must garner an overall majority – 38 of the 75 votes – to be elected. If this does not happen, the candidate with the smallest number of votes will be eliminated and a second round of voting will be held. Again the 38-vote mark must be reached. If the second round is inconclusive, a third round will be held, as was the case with Christodoulos in 1998.

As speculation mounted yesterday about the outcome of today’s polls, some Bishops were said to be angered by the interventions of certain politicians who allegedly expressed support for particular Bishops. There were also allegations of attempts by businesses and publishing firms to intimidate some Bishops into voting a certain way.

Two lead in new Archbishop’s election race February 6, 2008

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Two favorites have emerged in the race to become the next Archbishop of Greece, sources said yesterday, as one of the front-runners pleaded with all the candidates and the Bishops that will be voting to conduct the election in a respectable manner.

The Bishop of Thebes, Ieronymos, and the Bishop of Sparta, Efstathios, appear to be the two candidates most likely to fight it out to be the next head of the Church of Greece, sources indicated.

The Holy Synod is due to convene in Athens tomorrow to elect a successor to Archbishop Christodoulos. A total of 75 Bishops will cast their vote, as three have said they will not attend because of illness.

The two other candidates that will stand in the election are Bishop of Thessaloniki, Anthimos, and the Bishop of Dimitrias, Ignatios. The last 24 hours has seen the four candidates canvasing support and trying to convince undecided Bishops to vote for them.

The process is being carried out in considerable secrecy as the candidates are worried about rivals trying to tempt their supporters to switch allegiance. A short memorial service for Archbishop Christodoulos was conducted at the First Cemetery in Athens yesterday.

Meanwhile, the Bishop of Thebes took the opportunity to urge there to be unity in the Church of Greece. “We all have a duty to make use of the legacy that the late Archbishop left to the Church, working with love and harmony,” said Bishop Ieronymos.

Greece’s Archbishop elections on Thursday February 5, 2008

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Two of the favorites begin talks with supporters ahead of Thursday poll

Two of the candidates vying to become then next Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church had contact with supporters yesterday ahead of the Holy Synod vote on Thursday as one Bishop said he would not vote in the election. Efstathios, Bishop of Sparta, and Anthimos, Bishop of Thessaloniki, met with their respective supporters yesterday as reports emerged that Bishop Spyridonas of Lagadas said he was not well enough to attend Thursday’s meeting of the Holy Synod, prompting rumors on whether he had been put under pressure not to attend.

First name in hat for Archbishop February 2, 2008

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Bishop Ignatios of Dimitrias who is based in Volos town, became yesterday the first metropolitan since the death of Archbishop Christodoulos to declare his candidacy to become the new head of the Church of Greece as the contest threatens to be marred by scandal.

The Holy Synod is due to meet on Thursday to elect a new Archbishop but Ignatios stole a march on his rivals by putting forward 10 points on which he wants to focus if he succeeds Christodoulos.

Several candidates are expected to follow suit. Among the expected contenders are Bishop Efstathios of Sparta, Bishop Ieronymos of Thebes and Bishop Anthimos of Thessaloniki.

However, Bishop Chrysostomos of Messinia caused a stir by claiming he was blackmailed by people who want him to support the Bishop of Sparta. Chrysostomos said that he was withdrawing his support for Efstathios as a result of the pressure being put on him.

A total of 77 hierarchs will vote for the Church’s next leader. If no candidate gets more than 50 percent in the first round, a second round will be held and the Bishop with the most votes will win.

Thousands of Greeks flock to Archbishop’s funeral February 1, 2008

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The body of Archbishop Christodoulos was carried through central Athens, followed by senior clerics and politicians, at his funeral procession yesterday attended by thousands.

Thousands of Greeks filled the center of Athens yesterday to pay their last respects to Archbishop Christodoulos, who was given a state funeral following his death from cancer on Monday at the age of 69.

President Karolos Papoulias, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis as well as Ministers, Bishops and a 12-member delegation from the Vatican attended a requiem mass at Athens Cathedral, where the Archbishop’s body had lain in state.

The mass was led by Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios, who flew to Athens from his base in Istanbul. “With his actions our brother enriched the Church of Greece… (his) death is a great loss for the Orthodox world,” said Vartholomaios, whose relations with Christodoulos had been strained due to a dispute over the management of certain Greek dioceses.

After the service a 21-gun salute boomed as Christodoulos’s open casket was carried through the city center to Athens’s First Cemetery. Hundreds of priests and a 900-soldier guard of honor escorted the gun carriage carrying the coffin, followed by thousands of Greeks of all ages. Mourners lining the streets cried out “immortal”, “martyr”, “farewell” as the coffin wound through Syntagma Square, past the site of the Temple of Zeus and on to the city’s historic cemetery.

Schools, courts and government offices remained closed as Christodoulos was granted honors normally accorded to heads of state. World political and religious leaders, including the Russian and US presidents, Queen Elizabeth II of Britain and Pope Benedict XVI sent messages of condolence.

The Holy Synod is to elect a new archbishop next Thursday. Contenders include Bishop Anthimos of Thessaloniki and Bishop Ieronymos of Thebes.