Greek Archbishop Christodoulos dies

ATHENS Mon Jan 28, 2008 7:52am GMT

1 of 2. Greece's Orthodox Archbishop Christodoulos smiles before entering an aircraft in Athens, August 2007. Christodoulos, head of the powerful church in the country, died on Monday at the age of 69.

Credit: Reuters/Yiorgos Karahalis

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ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek Orthodox Archbishop Christodoulos, head of the powerful church in the country, died on Monday at the age of 69.

Christodoulos had suffered from cancer for the past seven months. He died at home.

"He brought the church closer to society, closer to modern problems and to young people," Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said in a statement.

Christodoulos courted controversy from his first reformist days at the helm of the Church through to the conservative U-turn he made that drove many supporters away.

He grudgingly agreed to a landmark visit by Pope John Paul to Greece in 2001 that marked a turning point in relations between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches since the Great Schism of 1054 that split Christianity.

Born Christos Paraskevaidis in north-eastern Greece in 1939, he became the youngest head of the powerful church when he was elected to the top post in 1998, following the death of his predecessor Seraphim.

His funeral will be held after a three-day wake.

(Reporting by George Hatzidakis; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

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