Dr. Andreas G. Tzakis, director of the University of Miami Transplant Institute, discusses the upcoming liver transplant of Archbishop Christodoulos, head of Greece's Orthodox Church, Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2007, in Miami. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
By LISA ORKIN EMMANUEL
MIAMI (AP) — The leader of Greece's Orthodox Church has been getting physically and mentally ready for a liver transplant by exercising and watching his diet, his surgeon said Wednesday.
Archbishop Christodoulos, 68, has a cancerous tumor on his liver and was previously said to have cancer in his large intestine. But the disease appears to be confined to his liver for now, Dr. Andreas Tzakis said.
He has been in Miami for about a month waiting for the transplant, and Tzakis, director of the University of Miami's organ transplant institute, said the operation should occur "very soon."
The right organ has yet to be found, he said, and Christodoulos' condition is critical. Doctors must find a donor who is dead and has the right blood type and organ size, he said.
Christodoulos is in good spirits and is keeping up with his obligations in Greece, Tzakis said.
"The archbishop is doing fine. Considering everything that he has he is doing excellent. He is working very hard to prepare himself mentally and physically for the transplant," Tzakis said.
Tzakis' team performs about 200 liver transplants a year, and 5 percent of them go to foreigners, the doctor said, adding that Christodoulos was not getting any special treatment.
"It's a procedure that has been done for many years for this type of a cancer," Tzakis said. "We hope that by removing the cancer, we will give him an opportunity to live a normal or normal length of life."
Elected church leader in 1998, Christodoulos has occasionally stirred controversy with politically tinged statements.
In frequent televised sermons, he has criticized gays, aspirations by neighboring Turkey to join the European Union and a government initiative to ease the nationalist tone of history books in state elementary school.
Christodoulos missed Greece's elections Sunday, and the Cabinet was formally presented to the president in a ceremony also presided over by Church of Greece officials led by Metropolitan Prokopios, who stood in for Christodoulos.