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Condolences to Greek Orthodox community after Mt Athos crash

Australian Catholic Bishops Conference President, Archbishop Francis Carroll, yesterday expressed prayerful condolences to the Australian Greek Orthodox community, following the death of Bishop Nektarios, an Australian Greek Orthodox Bishop.

The senior Australian cleric was among 17 victims of a helicopter crash that also claimed the life of the church's spiritual leader in Africa, the Patriarch of Alexandria, Peter VII.

"I am shocked and saddened at these tragic deaths," said Archbishop Carroll. "The Australian Greek Orthodox community will particularly feel the death of Bishop Nektarios who was held in such high esteem for his work both in Australia and Madagascar where I understand he built schools, worked with orphans and set up disaster relief and health care programs.

"We extend to all our grieving Greek Orthodox brothers and sisters our deepest sympathy and prayerful condolences at this time."

The group was heading for the Mount Athos monastery in northern Greece, one of the holiest sites in Orthodox Christianity, in a Greek Army helicopter when it disappeared from radar screens.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Archdeacon Sophronius Konidaris, personal deacon to Archbishop Stylianos, of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia, yesterday paid tribute to the Australian, Bishop Nektarios of Madagascar, whom he described as a humble cleric and pioneer missionary.

"We are all very shocked by his death. He was very placid, a very unassuming, very loving man who dedicated his life to the people of Madagascar. He had an established life here, was an ordained cleric serving in the Gold Coast and mostly Adelaide, but he chose to leave everything to go to Madagascar.

Greek authorities have recovered seven bodies, and the Adelaide-based parents of Bishop Nektarios have been advised that the body of their son is one of those missing.

A divine liturgy and memorial service for Bishop Nektarios has been planned for Saturday at the Monastery of St Nektarios, Adelaide. Bishop Nektarios, who was born in Rhodes, was 51.

Military ships and aircraft began a rescue operation and found wreckage and bodies in the water 10 kilometres off the Halkidiki peninsula, where Mount Athos stands. A military source said the crash of the Chinook helicopter was almost certainly an accident, but its cause was still unknown.

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis expressed his "deep pain" at the death and said the crash was a "great loss for the Orthodox church, Hellenism, and the armed forces". UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan sent his condolences to the families of victims and the Greek Orthodox community, his spokesman said.

Catholic Archbishop extends condolences to Greek Orthodox community following deaths of church leaders (Australian Catholic Bishops Conference 13/9/04)
Australian bishop dies in air crash off Greece (Sydney Morning Herald/AFP 13/9/04)

Three days of mouring in Greece (Associated Press/ 13/9/04)
Papal telegram for death of Petros VII (Missionary Service News Agency 13/9/04)
Mount athos: body of Orthodox Patriarch Petros VII found (Missionary Service News Agency 13/9/04)
Death of Patriarch of Alexandria in helicopter crash stuns Orthodox (Ecumenical News International 13/9/04)
Pope "deeply saddened" over death of Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria (Catholic News Agency 13/9/04)
Telegram of condolences for death of Patriarch Petros VII (Vatican Information Service 13/9/04)
The names of the passengers of the chinook (Macedonian Press Agency 11/9/04)
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia
Orthodox Research Institute
Mount Athos - the Holy Mountain

14 Sep 2004