Monday, January 28, 2008

Church Leaders Dropping Like Flies

If you were in charge of a major religious denomination this weekend, you probably aren't anymore. Let's take a look at the casualties:

First up:

Archbishop Christodoulos, 69-year-old leader of the Greek Orthodox Church, died of liver cancer. Christodoulous was a controversial figure; the Times obituary makes him sound pretty rad:

A polyglot who surfed the Internet, Archbishop instituted sign-language liturgies for the deaf and made plans for a religious television station, and buoyed the faith’s dwindling numbers with the aura of a rock star. He enlivened sermons with one-liners and animated antics. He cheerfully allowed teenagers to wear miniskirts and body-piercing jewelry to Mass. He embraced rather than disgraced AIDS patients.

Yet his Wikipedia entry makes him sound like an arch-conservative reactionary. You be the judge!

Next up:

Mormon church president Gordon B. Hinckley died of old age at 97. Apparently the community is totally shocked; as a University of Utah student put it: " "I texted my brother and he just wrote back, 'What?' "

Hinckley was actually descended from the original Mormons, and he was a tireless evangelist for his church, making lots of international trips and several cable appearances to dispel rumors about polygamy and cultism. He also told Mike Wallace that his sacred underwear once saved him from a fire.

Last but not least:

80-year-old Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, leader of the Jesuits, did not die. He did, however, decide he was too old for the position, and was replaced this weekend by the much more chipper 71-year-old Rev. Adolfo Nicolas.
Those who hold this position (official title: Superior General of the Society of Jesus) have been nicknamed "black Popes" because, unlike the Pope (but like Johnny Cash), you'll never see them wear a suit of white. Among internet nutjobs, Black Popes like Kolvenbach are credited with all kinds of nefarious conspiracies, not including the deaths of the above church leaders . . . yet.

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