Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Greek Orthodox church leader will return home for chemotherapy

The Associated Press Published: October 23, 2007

MIAMI: Archbishop Christodoulos, leader of Greece's Orthodox Church, will return to Greece for chemotherapy after a liver transplant in Miami was halted because his liver cancer has spread to the abdominal cavity, his doctor said Tuesday.

Greek transplant specialist Andreas Tzakis, director of the University of Miami's organ transplant institute, said Christodoulos would probably go home this week.

"Psychologically he is very strong and he seems to be dealing with this very well. I just spoke to him earlier today ... He is ready to go on for the next step," Tzakis said.

Tzakis said cancer that is spreading from the liver cannot be removed with an operation.

This kind of spread of the cancer is very rare," Tzakis said. "For this kind of a cancer and the extent of the spread was also very unusual."

The transplant could not be completed earlier this month because anti-rejection drugs that patients have to take after a transplant would fuel a tumor's growth.

"He is so strong he would have been able to survive the transplant had that been possible," Tzakis said. "I feel disappointed that we could not help him more."

The 68-year-old archbishop was diagnosed with cancer in June after undergoing intestinal surgery, and had spent 40 days in a hospital in Athens. He waited 50 days for a compatible liver to become available.

"As he himself said, his life has been in the hands of God and we are all hopeful that he will respond to the chemotherapy and he will continue serving his people who are so devoted to him," Tzakis said.

Elected church leader in 1998, Christodoulos often stirred controversy with politically tinged statements.

He was instrumental in attempts to improve ties with the Catholic Church; in 2001, Christodoulos received in Athens Pope John Paul II — the first pope to visit Greece in nearly 1,300 years — ignoring loud protests from Orthodox zealots. He followed up last year with a historic visit to the Vatican, where he and Pope Benedict XVI signed a joint declaration calling for inter-religious dialogue and restating opposition to abortion and euthanasia.

In Greece, politicians accused him of meddling in their affairs, angered by his vocal criticism of everything from homosexuality and globalization to Turkey's efforts to join the European Union and a recent government effort to tone down nationalism in school history books.



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