Church issues a Christmas reminder

Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios, the spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians, and Archbishop Christodoulos, the head of the Church of Greece, sought to remind the faithful yesterday that Christmas is not just a commercial event. In their annual addresses, the two religious leaders separately emphasized the religious significance of the Christmas holidays. «The birth of Christ gives us the opportunity to overcome our mortality,» said Vartholomaios from the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul. «We should not celebrate this event ostentatiously or superficially as a common seasonal festivity which does not have any other impact on our lives apart from allowing us to celebrate,» the patriarch said. His views were echoed by Christodoulos in his Christmas message. «Christmas is a cause of wonder, surprise and gratefulness for the faithful,» said the archbishop. «However, we should not allow Christmas to be commercialized. Children should not be ignorant of what we are celebrating. Cards should not display snow-covered trees and images that are irrelevant to the birth of Christ.» Christodoulos warned Orthodox Christians not to become a «dizzy flock» driven by consumerism. Meanwhile, the archbishop could soon be facing a revolt within the Church of Greece as some bishops are set to force an urgent meeting of the Hierarchy, sources said. It appears that some bishops are upset by Christodoulos's recent actions, including his visit to the Vatican, because they feel that he is using his position to extend his powers and promote himself. Bishop Theoklitos of Ioannina sent a letter to the archbishop in which he accused Christodoulos of displaying «insecurity» and «extreme ambition» in his actions. Theoklitos said that the archbishop's meeting with Pope Benedict XVI served Christodoulos's ego and not the «interests of the Church of Greece.» The Holy Synod had previously prevented the archbishop from meeting the late Pope John Paul II at the Vatican.