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This Week in History: January 24th to January 30th

Ευρωκίνηση

Christodoulos, Archbishop of Athens and All of Greece. (Photo by Eurokinissi)

January 24th:

On this day in 1994, Michalis Vranopoulos, the former chairman of Greece’s largest state-owned bank, was shot and murdered at the age of 48. Vranopoulos headed the National Bank of Greece until a change of government a few months earlier. He was shot four times (in the chest, stomach, leg, and arm) as he and his driver walked to his office in downtown Athens. Vranopoulos had been testifying in a judicial investigation into his bank’s sale of a majority stake in a cement company in 1992. The PASOK socialist party which had taken returned to power had charged that the $650 million price for the sale (which took place when the Conservatives were in power) was scandalously low. The assailants escaped on a scooter and no one claimed responsibility for the attack. However, then-Public Order Minister Stelios Papathemelis said the ballistics tests showed the .45 caliber handgun used in the attack was the same one the November 17 terrorist organization used in the 1975 murder of Central Intelligence Agency station chief Richard Wells.

January 28th:

On this day in 2008, Christodoulos, Archbishop of Athens and All of Greece, passed away. Born Christos Paraskevaidis in Xanthe, Archbishop Christodoulos was the youngest man ever to be named head of the Orthodox Church of Greece. He was viewed as a controversial participant in Greek politics and one of the most popular figures in Greece. As Archbishop, Christodoulos was an influential and innovative leader. He appeared on radio and television regularly and made numerous public appearances at churches, hospitals, and schools throughout Greece. Recognizing the importance of new media, he established an internet service for the church that included an electronic library and art gallery. Furthermore, Christodoulos advocated dialogue to mend the historic rift between his church and the Roman Catholic Church. In 2001, Christodoulos received the late John Paul II, the first pope to visit Greece in nearly 1,300 years – despite vigorous protests from Orthodox zealots. The Archbishop followed up in 2006 with a historic visit to the Vatican where he and Pope Benedict XVI signed a declaration for interfaith dialogue.

January 29th:

On this day in 1941, Alexandros Koryzis became the Prime Minister of Greece for a short period of time after his predecessor, the dictator Ioannis Metaxas died during the Greco-Italian War. Prior to this, he was governor of the Bank of Greece. Although largely powerless during that time since the government was effectively controlled by King George II, he still bore the burden of the German invasion which commenced on April 6 of 1941 after Koryzis rejected a German demand to expel all British forces from Greece. Less than two weeks later, on April 18, as German troops marched towards Athens and the city was placed under martial law, Koryzis committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest. The cause of his death was initially reported to be a heart attack, probably to avoid causing mass panic in Athens. Originally from the small island of Poros, Koryzis is honored on the island with a small museum dedicated to his life and contributions.