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.
On this day in 1941, Ioannis Metaxas, the Greek general and dictator (1936-1941) died at the age of 69. After active service in the Greco-Turkish War of 1897, Metaxas completed his military training in Germany at the Berlin War Academy. He distinguished himself during the Balkan Wars of 1912-13 and was eventually promoted to lieutenant general in 1916. Throughout his military career, he always supported the monarchy over the republic and was a big supporter of King Constantine I. During World War I, he unsuccessfully tried to maintain Greek neutrality and opposed the plans of Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos for the occupation of western Anatolia – accurately predicting the military catastrophe that inevitably took place. Metaxas held a variety of positions in the Greek government and founded the Freethinker’s Party in 1922 and eventually served as Prime Minister of Greece and then Greek Royalist dictator. To this day, Metaxas remains a controversial figure – reviled by some for his dictatorial rule and admired by others for his patriotism and defiance of aggression with his great ‘OXI!’ to Mussolini.
On this day in 1882, Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark was born at the Tatoi Palace in northern Athens. Prince Andrew (a prince of both Denmark and Greece by virtue of his patrilineal descent) was the seventh child and fourth son of King George I of Greece and Olga Constantinovna of Russia and the father of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. A career soldier, he began military training at an early age (despite his near-sightedness), and was commissioned as an officer in the Greek army. His command positions were substantive appointments rather than honorary, and he saw service in the Balkan Wars. In 1913, his father was assassinated and Andrew’s elder brother, Constantine, became king. The king’s neutrality policy during World War I led to his abdication, and most of the royal family, including Andrew, was exiled. On their return a few years later, Andrew saw service as Major General in the Greco-Turkish War, but the war did not go well for Greece and Andrew was blamed in part. He was exiled for a second time in 1922 and spent most of the rest of his life in France. He died of heart failure in Monaco and was first buried in the Russian Orthodox Church in Nice, but in 1946, his remains were transferred by the Greek cruiser Averof to the royal cemetery at Tatoi Palace.