The head of the powerful Greek Orthodox Church, Archbishop Christodoulos has died after a battle with liver cancer.

Church officials say the archbishop died early Monday in Athens, months after a failed attempt to receive a liver transplant in the United States. He was 69 years old.

The Greek government has announced three days of mourning while his body lies in state. Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis praised the archbishop for bringing the church closer to the public.

Christodoulos was elected archbishop in 1998 and was highly admired in Greece despite upsetting both the liberal and ultra-orthodox wings of the church.

He welcomed the late Pope John Paul to Athens in 2001 -- the first Roman Catholic leader to visit the Greek capital in more than 1,000 years -- infuriating hardliners. He later made a return visit to the Vatican.

He also upset liberals with his condemnation of homosexuality and his unsuccessful fight to keep religious affiliation on state-issued identity cards.

Some Greeks called for his resignation during sex and corruption scandals in the church, but he remained one of the country's most popular figures.

Orthodox church leaders have 20 days to elect a new archbishop.

The vast majority of Greeks identify themselves as Greek Orthodox, making the church a major force in the country.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.