An archbishop for difficult times

This country can be really funny at times. Up until early Monday, Greece resembled a trashy nightclub. All sorts of colorful TV personas were trading barbs and accusations in an endless show of kitsch and cacophony. All of a sudden, the din gave way to fine manners and subtle language, with a backdrop of classical music. The hypocrisy of these past few days dictates that we indulge in cliches about the character and works of the late archbishop. The truth is he was a political man who left his mark on developments of the last decade, making overtures that helped bring the Church of Greece closer to the people. His stance in the face of death won him a great deal of public sympathy. But the time of succession has arrived, so allow me to express my opinion on the type of archbishop the country needs, especially at a time when public confidence in institutions is on the wane. First of all, we need a spiritual leader who will deserve respect without the help of spin doctors and PR exercises. Certainly, the Church’s charity work must be advanced. But this is unnecessary, even repulsive, when it degenerates into a bid for publicity at the expense of rival public figures. Heretical as it may sound, the new archbishop should focus solely on religious diplomacy and leave diplomacy proper in the hands of the more experienced diplomatic staff. There is no room for sentiment or dogma in foreign policy. What is required is cool reasoning and flexibility. These are times of great insecurity and uncertainty. Non-believers have their own way of ensuring peace of mind and answering the difficult questions. The faithful would like to see a religious figure that inspires respect, who reaches out to the poor and the weak and who stays clear from the unscrupulous meat grinder of the media. That is, they want an archbishop not «of our time,» as it were, but for the difficult times.