‘Your Christodoulos…’

Archbishop Christodoulos, blessed with great intellect and emotional intelligence, understood as few politicians and fewer clerics how to sense the pulse of the people, how to express their feelings and lead them where he wished. In his 10 years on the archbishop’s throne, he harvested the joys but also the bitterness that comes of a life in the public eye. With his unprecedented influence and popular support, he placed the Church at the center of public life, not flinching from an all-out clash with the government of Costas Simitis or with the Ecumenical Patriarchate. He dreamed of seeing the Archbishopric evolve into a patriarchate. But he also saw people close to him get caught up in a scandal involving influence peddling between clerics and judges, in 2005, and he saw them pilloried on television. (And he learned that familiarity with the camera guarantees no immunity.) Christodoulos was fully aware of the potency of the great machine of power that he commanded. But what gave him strength, what pushed him beyond the limits of his religious role, was not his position as a general but as a simple soldier. This was confirmed during his illness and with his death. The senior cleric gave way to the human being, and the human Christodoulos moved even his sternest critics. And he was moved by the simple, human love that the people showed him – a love unrelated to high office, to political influence, to dreams of leading the nation. This is the Christodoulos the crowds braved freezing temperatures to honor as he lay in state this week. They went for the man, not for the state funeral. But even such rituals have their unmistakable symbolic value: the dead archbishop, on the gun carriage, passed by the closed Parliament and the monument loved beyond all other by this nation – the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The tomb of the anonymous, the humble man, the only one who will not be forgotten.