Monday, February 18, 2008

New Athens archbishop distances himself from predecessor's legacy

© AP
2008-02-16 18:18:11 -

ATHENS, Greece (AP) - Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens was officially enthroned Saturday and promised to avoid interfering in party politics, distancing himself from the position take by his predecessor as leader of the Greek Orthodox Church.Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, the cabinet and other Greek officials, representatives from other Orthodox churches as well
as thousands of faithful _ many from Ieronymos' former diocese of Thebes _ attended the ceremony at Athens' Metropolitan Cathedral.

In his enthronement speech, Ieronymos, 70, emphasized that he would rule as president of the 75-member Holy Synod of Greece's bishops and would not interfere «in party politics.

This was seen as a direct jab at his late predecessor, Christodoulos, who favored the ruling conservatives and who considered himself the leader of all Greeks.Ieronymos also pointedly praised Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, «a man deeply rooted in tradition, but who also understands the issues of our times» and called for the unity of the Orthodox churches around the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of the world's 250 million Orthodox Christians, and Christodoulos had an often testy relationship over matters of jurisdiction.Also in contrast to his predecessor, who often railed in sermons against globalization and the European Union, claiming that they were bent on imposing conformity, Ieronymos spoke of the «challenges and opportunities» of globalization and promised to cooperate with the state on fighting poverty and preventing the marginalization of the mentally ill, helping integrate immigrants and debating issues such as stem-cell research.

The new Greek prelate also promised a church free of the financial scandals that have rocked it during recent years and called for better-educated parish priests. Ieronymos, who holds graduate degrees in theology and archaeology had ensured that most priests in his former diocese of Thebes, which he had administered since 1981, held graduate degrees as well.

Ieronymos did promise to continue Christodoulos' opening of the church to the young and said he would set up a Youth Council to advise him. He is also expected to continue Christodoulos' steps to improve relations with the Catholic Church, despite opposition from some conservative elements within the Greek Orthodox Church.Ieronymos was elected on February 7 to replace Christodoulos, who died January 28 at 69, from complications of liver and intestinal cancer. He defeated the presumed favorite, Bishop of Sparta Efstathios, who was seen as a safe conservative choice.


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