Patriarch of Alexandria Killed
- Greece air crash kills top cleric
Petros was elected Patriarch seven years ago
A senior leader of the Greek Orthodox Church has been killed along
with 16 other people in a helicopter crash off the coast of northern
Patriarch Petros VII of Alexandria, the spiritual leader of Greek
Orthodox Christians in Africa, was heading north from Athens when
contact was lost.
He was going to a monastic community on Mount Athos for a religious
Aircraft and ships mounted a rescue operation which located wreckage
and bodies in the nearby Aegean Sea.
No cause has yet been established for the crash, which occurred when
conditions were good.
Military officials said the helicopter was in a good condition and
the pilots were experienced.
The Patriarch, 55 - one of the most senior figures in the Greek
Orthodox Church - was on a visit to Greece from Egypt accompanied by
Orthodox priests and laymen from the Alexandria area.
His helicopter went missing about two hours into the flight from
Athens to Mount Athos - known as the Holy Mountain - for a religious
A church spokesman said the death of Patriarch Petros was a huge loss
as he had breathed new life into the Orthodox Church in Africa since
being elected seven years ago.
Mount Athos - a male-only community of Orthodox monasteries - has
been a centre of Eastern Orthodoxy since AD963 and is classed as a
semi-autonomous monastic republic.