By Constantinos Psillides
HUNDREDS of people paid their last respects on Monday at the funeral of Defence Minister Tasos Mitsopoulos, a widely-respected politician, who died on Saturday at the age of 48 after suffering a ruptured aneurysm.
The service was held at the church of Agios Georgios Kontos in Larnaca, Mitsopoulos’ hometown, which was packed with hundreds of people who wanted to pay their last respects to a politician who stood out for his sense of morality and honesty.
President Nicos Anastasiades delivered a heartfelt eulogy but the farewell from Mitsopoulos’ daughter Hara, summed up what the man was all about.
“Your name is your greatest legacy. Thank you for being who you were. We are so proud that you were our father. I haven’t got much more to say, other than thank you for the memories,” she said.
“Thank you for teaching me dignity and a sense of morality …, thank you for teaching me the huge importance of love. I believe that you had much more to offer to the country but God wanted you by his side. Thank you. We will never forget you.”
Draped in the Cypriot and Greek flags, Mitsopoulos’ casket arrived on a gun carriage followed by his wife Katerina, daughter Hara, and son Aris, flanked by military police officers.
People lined the street outside the church as a military guard presented arms.
A number of Greek dignitaries also attended the funeral service, as Mitsopoulos was very active in Greek politics. Present were the Greek armed forces commander Michal Kostarakos and Greece Defence minister Dimitris Avraamopoulos, another long time collaborator of Mitsopoulos who served as the director of his office from 1993 to 1995. Cyprus party leaders were also present, as well as House president Yiannakis Omirou.
In his eulogy for his long-time associate and friend, President Nicos Anastasiades recounted Mitsopooulos’ achievements in his short political career, referring to him as son.
“I regarded you like one of my own and for you I was a second father, like you used to say. In 20 years there was no shadow cast over our collaboration,” Anastasiades said. “We wept together for the loss of your mother; we celebrated your marriage and the birth of your children. Together we celebrated my election to the office of president, for which your help was invaluable. For that I thank you”.
Anastasiades apologised for not appointing him minister of defence sooner, a post he said Mitsopoulos was eager to take, as his father had served as an officer of the Greek Navy.
“Circumstances didn’t allow it; you didn’t have enough time to see your vision through, my dear Tasos. You depart this world with the honour you deserve, leaving us with the legacy of the exemplary politician – a model of integrity, a model father, a loving husband and a virtuous Christian. Farewell my dear Tasos. Go in peace, knowing that you did your duties to the country, to your hometown, to your loving family, that is now our loving family, to the fullest. Farewell my son.”
Upon placing a wreath, Archbishop Chrysostomos said that the Holy Synod prays that “the Lord of life and death places you where the just forever lie in peace”.
Following the service, the casket was taken for burial at the church’s cemetery, while the army band played the funeral march. At the family’s request, broadcasters didn’t cover the burial service.
According to the Cyprus News Agency (CNA), during the time of the burial the crowded shouted “Athanatos” (Immortal) and “farewell Tasos”. A military honour guard fired a 21 gun salute, as mourners applauded and sang the national anthem.
The former defence minister was found unconscious in his office on Friday morning. He was rushed to the Nicosia GeneralHospital where he was diagnosed with a ruptured aneurysm. He underwent surgery but it was already too late. The doctors at the NGH asked for the advice of neurosurgeons from Israel and Greece but there was nothing that could be done. President Anastasiades, who was in Brussels for an EU meeting, cut his visit short and returned to be informed in person on Mitsopoulos health. On Friday night, while exiting the hospital, Anastasiades made a short statement to the press but was emotionally distraught.
Mitsopoulos died on Saturday, at around 1:30 p.m., shortly after the doctors announced that his condition was irreversible.
The online book of condolences available for the public was swarmed with messages.
“You were an honourable politician, the kind Cyprus needed to change. Farewell,” said one message, while another read “may you have a safe journey to the angels. I wish we had more politicians like you. Your dignity and morality were attributes seldom found in people. May you rest in peace.”