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New Patriarch Elected in Alexandria

Theodoros Horeftakis, the Cretan-born head of the Orthodox church in Zimbabwe, has been elected as the new Patriarch of Alexandria by the church's governing body, becoming leader of hundreds of thousa
( [email protected] ) Oct 11, 2004 09:32 PM EDT

The Cretan-born Bishop of Zimbabwe was elected on Saturday as head of the Greek Orthodox Church in Africa, replacing Patriarch Petros VII, who was killed in a September 11 helicopter accident in northern Greece.

Theodoros II—born Theodoros Horeftakis—won the unanimous backing of the 13 members of the Patriarchate’s Holy Synod in the second round of voting in the northern Egyptian city of Alexandria.

In the first round of voting, in which he ran against the bishops of Axum and Leontopolis, Theodoros, secured the highest number of ballots.

The new patriarch, who studied theology in Thessaloniki and served at the beginning of his career in his native Crete, was elected bishop of Cameroon in 1997, and took over the Zimbabwe bishopric in October 2002.

As the 116th Patriarch of Alexandria, Theodoros II will be the spiritual leader of the estimated 300,000 Greek Orthodox in Africa. Although his church followers are few in number on the continent, it is one of the world's oldest Christian congregations, considered second in the ancient ranking of the Orthodox churches and able to trace its roots to the apostle Mark.

Theodoros's predecessor, Petros VII, was killed Saturday, Sept. 11 when a Greek army CH-47D Chinook helicopter taking his entourage to the monastic community of Mount Athos in northern Greece crashed into the sea.