Lessons to be learnt from an ordeal

Archbishop Christodoulos has always been an influential as well as controversial personality. He has not avoided interference in matters of national interest or social issues that have often divided the country’s political powers. His clashes with former Prime Minister Costas Simitis (over whether citizens’ police identity cards should state their religious persuasion) and with Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios (over the status of territories reclaimed by Greece after 1912 which fall under the authority of the Istanbul-based religious leader) have been instrumental in the development of the Orthodox Church’s relationship with the state and the Holy Synod’s ties with Istanbul. But over the past few months all this has been forgotten, and rightly so. The painful, protracted ordeal of the ailing archbishop has erased the dividing lines, both within the Greek clergy and the public, and has healed rifts. It has also been the catalyst for some important conclusions, chiefly the importance of organ donors. A 25-year-old lost his life but saved someone else’s. The metastasis of the archbishop’s cancer did not allow him to undergo the planned transplant but the young man’s liver was successfully transplanted by US-based surgeon Andreas Tzakis into another patient. The attention that has been given to Christodoulos’s case has highlighted the positive aspects of organ donation. Let us hope the archbishop’s ordeal encourages others to consider organ donation. The unfortunate developments served to highlight another truth: namely that Greeks’ penchant for exaggeration is still very much alive. Tzakis was promoted as the world’s top surgeon and the Miami Jackson Memorial Hospital as a research paradise where failure is non-existent. Tzakis has helped many people, including Greeks and Greek Americans, often without financial gain, and he is worthy of praise. But the typical Greek penchant for hyberbole led to a premature conclusion – that the success of the archbishop’s operation was certain. After the disappointment, certain individuals transformed Tzakis from «God» to a «inadequate surgeon» interested only in personal profit. What a shame. The whole experience has also taught us a positive lesson regarding the great qualities of the Greek diaspora: from the wealthy families who offered the archbishop accommodation to the simple people who prayed for him, including one man who offered his own liver, saying that Christodoulos’s life was more important than his own. As has been the case so many other times in the past, the diaspora proved itself to be a huge reservoir of love for everything Greek.