Jerusalem (AsiaNews) The enthronement of Theophilos III as the new Orthodox Patriarch of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem opens a "new and more cordial chapter" in the relationship between the Catholic Church and its Greek-Orthodox counterpart, this according to Father Athanasius, Franciscan in charge of the Holy Sepulchre, who spoke to AsiaNews about the ceremony held on November 22 that he attended.
"Theophilos III is a good person, educated and cordial," Father Athanasius said. He has already said that he is looking forward to renewing and strengthening ties amongst the various Christian denominations in the Holy Land."
"In the past the new Patriarch did a lot for the upkeep of the holy place," he added.
His Beatitude the Archbishop of Athens and all of Greece, Christodoulos Paraskevaides, and the President of Greece Karolos Papoulias attended the ceremony as did representatives of all Christian Churches and all Orthodox Patriarchates. Envoys from both Jordan and the Palestinian National Authority were also present but "not in any official capacity". No one from Israel was there though.
The State of Israel has in fact neither recognised the destitution of the former Patriarch Ireneos I, nor approved the election of his successor by the pan-Orthodox Synod of Constantinople (Istanbul) led by Bartholomew I.
Israel's minister in charge of Jerusalem affairs in the Prime Minister's Office, Tzachi Hanegbi, sent a letter to the Patriarchate dated November 10 expressing his government's objection to the ceremony, "which is intended to validate the removal of Patriarch Ireneos, a move that has not been recognised by the State of Israel, as is required by law".
Ireneos, who is now a simple monk, in an interview with the Jerusalem Post said that the appointment of Teophilus III was an illegal act, which Israel, always mindful of the law, correctly did not recognise.
Ireneos was removed from office after he sold real estate belonging to the Patriarchate to Israeli businessmen.
For some experts in Jerusalem, the "current situation is bound to last for some time. To some extent, the status quo between the Patriarchate and the State of Israel is useful to everyone."