Crowds queue up to bid farewell to archbishop

Thousands of mourners queued for up to three hours outside Athens Cathedral yesterday to pay their final respects to Archbishop Christodoulos while his possible successors prepare to declare their candidacies following the funeral of the late head of the Greek Church tomorrow. The crowds waiting to see the archbishop lying in state were seven-people wide and stretched around Karaiskaki Square in central Athens. Policemen tried to prevent people pushing into the queue but mostly to no avail. More than 30,000 people are estimated to have passed through the cathedral over the last two days in order to catch a last glimpse of Christodoulos who died on Monday after a battle against cancer. Following his funeral tomorrow, a number of bishops are expected to indicate their interest in succeeding the archbishop. Among the front-runners are Efstathios, Bishop of Sparta, Ieronimos, Bishop of Thebes, Anthimos, Bishop of Thessaloniki, Ignatios, Bishop of Dimitrias, and Dorotheos, Bishop of Syros. The Holy Synod will vote for the next archbishop on February 7, which is much sooner than usual as the Church wants to avoid any potentially damaging rifts between candidates during a drawn-out campaign. Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios, the spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians, is expected in Athens today but sources said that he has made it clear he will not back a particular candidate.