Archbishop Christodoulos of Greece returns to Athens from the United States
Athens.- “With Godʼs help I returned to my Ithaca”, was the first emotionally charged statement made by archbishop Christodoulos when he arrived in Athens, at noon on Friday after staying for 70 days in Miami, Florida, where his scheduled liver transplant operation at the Jackson Memorial Hospital was aborted after it was ascertained that his cancer had spread to his abdomen. The transplant would have been carried out by renowned transplant surgeon Andreas Tzakis.
Members of the Holly Synod and many citizens welcomed the archbishop in Eleftherios Venizelos airport. After his arrival the archbishop went to his residence in Palaio Psychico which was crammed with flowers and wishing letters sent by the Prime Minister and his wife and by many other people. Mr. Christodoulos expressed the hope to win the difficult fight for the recovery of his health.
Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos returned to Athens
The Archbishop was welcomed at Athens airport by Education and Religion Minister Evripidis Stylianidis, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, Health and Social Solidarity Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, members of the Holy Synod and other dignitaries.
Speaking on his arrival, Archbishop Christodoulos said that “I am with you once again, with the people who have loved me so much and whom I have loved.”
The Archbishop said that as of Monday the first phase of therapy advised for him by doctors will begin.
“I feel very well and according to my internal disposition I will preoccupy myself with the issues of the Church’s administration and with my duties. With the support of all, God will provide what is best. I hope so,” he added.
After the official reception, the Primate of the Greek Church headed for his home in the Athens suburb of Psychiko where he was welcomed by crowds of wellwishers.
“I have returned to continue the struggle that I have started. I have the support of all of Hellenism in this struggle of mine. I thank all of you for your feelings towards me, that give me courage to continue a struggle that is difficult. I hope, however, that I will win it. I wish to thank all, starting from the Greek government which went out of its way and secured for me all the necessary facilities in Miami. Then the Hierarchy, the Holy Clergy and all the pious people who expressed their interest with their letters and their wishes,” he said.
Having a remarkable emotional strength archbishop is entering the phase of house medical treatment. The first stage will start on Monday. According to directions given by American doctors, the treatment will be moderate non toxic achieved by pill provision.
Meantime, Metropolitan Bishop of Zakynthos launched attacks against Mr. Christodoulosʼ associates speaking of “pathetic sorrowful men”.
Metropolitan Bishop of Zakynthos Chrysotomos, sent an open letter to the archbishop and to the members of the Holly Hierarchy asking form all members to stand by the archbishopʼs side while he spoke of “pathetic sorrowful men” implying Mr. Christodoulosʼ associates.
In his letters he refers to all those who tried to manipulate the archbishopsʼ situation. The cries of the miserables were heard in Aretaieio Hospital first and then in Miami and caused sadness to all those who remained calm. A sadness which was converted into resentment, Mr. Chrysotomos added in his letter.
Dr ANDREAS TZAKIS
Archbishop Christodoulos, 68, had come to Miami to seek a liver transplant, but doctors abandoned the procedure after they discovered that the cancer had spread.
The doctors could not go ahead with the transplant because anti-organ rejection drugs that the archbishop would have had to take would fuel the tumor’s growth.
A couple of days before Christodoulosʼ departure, Dr Andreas Tzakis spoke to the journalists about the Archbishopʼs plans.
“Psychologically he is very strong and he seems to be dealing with this very well,” Tzakis said. “I just spoke to him earlier today … He is ready to go on for the next step.”
Tzakis said the cancer cannot be removed with an operation.
Liver cancer can spread to the bones, brain and lungs through blood, but a spread to the abdominal cavity is rare because of blood’s circulation path, Tzakis has said.
It is also unusual because the tumors had not burst – another way cancer can spread.
“He is so strong he would have been able to survive the transplant had that been possible,” Tzakis said. “I feel disappointed that we could not help him more.”
The archbishop was diagnosed with cancer in June after undergoing intestinal surgery, and had spent 40 days in an Athens hospital. He waited 50 days for a compatible liver.
“As he himself said, his life has been in the hands of God and we are all hopeful that he will respond to the chemotherapy and he will continue serving his people,” Tzakis said.