Archbishop Christodoulos

It is true that this column had not always been particularly friendly toward the late Archbishop Christodoulos. Different social and educational backgrounds and a different lifestyle often, though not always, contribute to differences of opinion on the crucial questions of life. In a multifaceted society that is open to change, it is only natural, and expected, to have different viewpoints and for these to bring us into conflict. When I learned of the archbishop’s death, I felt sadness. That his death had been expected did little to ease the sense of loss. I do not feel the need to recant what I have written over the years about the late archbishop’s involvement in the public domain. Many argued that he had no such right, but everyone has the right to air their views in public. What this column sought to address were the views rather than his right. In this respect, we found ourselves diametrically opposed, and remain so to this day. I do, however, feel the need to say that Archbishop Christodoulos was a gifted, charismatic individual. If asked, I would say that, without doubt, he had a constructive presence because he stimulated our souls and intellects, made us think and feel, made us agree and rally behind him or disagree and oppose him. He was a catalyst in a society that had become complacent and indolent on many different levels. He was also, without question, a leader who transcended the bounds of the Church. He was, essentially, a political leader who addressed the people, and not just his flock, from the pulpit. He had the natural charisma emitted by leaders, which made him accepted by both those who were for and those who were against him. He was most certainly not a bland and pallid cleric caught up in the needs and logic of theological or admonitory preaching. On the contrary, he freed ecclesiastical speech from the bonds of theological dictates and moral condemnation. He almost unequivocally accepted that sin is part of our world and he addressed himself to the sinners. Perhaps because Orthodoxy, in essence, is an existential religion in which the faithful and the faithless, the sinners and the righteous, can seek answers. Archbishop Christodoulos’s greatest gift was the gift of oratory. In an age when priests and politicians deliver empty, hypocritical, highly predictable speeches, the archbishop was a master at the art of impassioning his audience with everyday words, simple words that got straight to the point. More than any politician, Archbishop Christodoulos revived public speaking. The world of the Church is a complex and contradictory one, and I cannot know the extent of his contribution to it or what he introduced that was new. Those who do not belong to this world only knew his public persona and it is this which they judged and bore witness to.