Church of Greece Holds Memorial Service for Patriarch Petros

The Orthodox Church of Greece held a memorial service Wednesday for Patriarch Petros VII of Alexandria who was killed in a helicopter crash over the weekend. Meanwhile, Greece will be going through a three-day national mourning period following a helicopter crash on Saturday that killed Petros and 16 others comprising his clerical entourage and a 5-member crew.

“We must for the time being put aside the questions we have about the tragedy of his death to honor him,” said the head of the Greek Church, Archbishop Christodoulos as reported by the Associated Press. “He was a humble man who dedicated his life to his church. His passing has left a giant vacuum.”

Petros, 55, who was killed Saturday 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, was the spiritual leader of the estimated 300,000 Greek Orthodox in Africa

Elected patriarch in 1997, Petros was ordained in 1969. The following year, he served as deacon in the patriarchate of Alexandria and as a priest in Johannesburg, South Africa. He was the metropolitan of West Africa covering 22 countries before becoming the 115th Patriarch of Alexandria.

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 St. Mark.

The service was held at Athens' main cathedral, where Petros' body has been lying in state since Monday. No decision has yet been made on who will replace Petros.

Meanwhile, military investigators have yet to find the bodies of eight of those who died and have also failed to locate the wreckage, believed to be lying 3,449 feet below the surface of the water off the coast of Mount Athos.