Church leaders around the world have paid tribute to Archbishop Christodoulos, Head of the Greek Orthodox Church, who died on Monday. In a telegram to His Eminence Seraphim, metropolitan of Karystia and Skyros, Pope Benedict gave assurances of his spiritual closeness to all those mourning the death "of this distinguished pastor of the Church of Greece", then goes on: "The fraternal welcome which His Beatitude gave my predecessor Pope John Paul II on the occasion of his visit to Athens in May 2001, and the return visit of Archbishop Christodoulos to Rome in December 2006, opened a new era of cordial co-operation between us, leading to increased contacts and improved friendship in the search for closer communion in the context of the growing unity of Europe. "I and Catholics around the world pray that the Orthodox Church of Greece will be sustained by the grace of God in continuing to build on the pastoral achievements of the late archbishop, and that in commending the noble soul of His Beatitude to our heavenly Father's loving mercy you will be comforted by the Lord's promise to reward His faithful servants". Writing on behalf of the World Council of Churches, Rev Dr Samuel Kobia General secretary sent the following tribute: "No one of us lives, and equally no one of us dies, for himself alone. If we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord" (Rom. 14:7-9). It is with deep sadness that we were informed about the passing away of Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and all Greece, a church leader that literally "belonged to the Lord", as he faithfully served his people in Greece and the worldwide Orthodox Church, while encouraging all Christian efforts and initiatives fostering unity and common witness in our world. I had been blessed with the privilege of knowing the late Archbishop personally. A deeply rooted bond of friendship and fraternal love marked our relationship. Our encounters, both in Athens and Geneva, were moments of real and profound communion with a gifted head of church, an Orthodox primate looking at the modern world in an interesting and challenging way, a church leader committed to walk the path of Christian unity with courage and vision, perseverance and patience, care and humility. Therefore, in the World Council of Churches, we mourn today a church leader who has opened for his church new horizons in the realm of inter-Christian relations and ecumenical dialogue. We lift up our hearts in gratitude for the life and witness of the late Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and all Greece. Our sincere condolences are addressed to the entire Church of Greece, the college of his fellow bishops, the clergy, the monks and nuns, and the entire people of God that was entrusted to him. Trusting in God's infinite love and mercy, we commend our beloved brother to the Lord of life and resurrection. We pray God, to receive him into his everlasting kingdom, where the joy and peace of God's presence reign forever. "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the all-merciful Father, the God whose consolation never fails us! He comforts us in all our troubles, so that we in turn may be able to comfort others in any trouble of theirs and to share with them the consolation we ourselves receive from God" (2 Cor. 1:3-4). May the memory of the late Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and all Greece be eternal!
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