11/28/2005, 00.00
HOLY LAND
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Israel slams swearing-in of Theophilos III as a "serious impropriety"

Thursday's ceremony, which went ahead in spite of official objections, is being called to question. The patriarch has accused Israel of behaving "like the Ottoman Empire".

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – The Israeli government yesterday described the ceremony to enthrone Theophilos III as new Greek-Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem as a "serious impropriety". This description of the event, which took place on Thursday 24 November, was made in the preliminary response to a petition filed by the Patriarchate to Israel's High Court of Justice a month ago.

In the petition, Theophilus III called on the Israeli State to recognise his election as Patriarch in the place of the deposed Irenios I, an appointment decided by the Synod of Jerusalem and confirmed by the pan-Orthodox Synod of Istanbul (Constantinople). In its reply yesterday, Israel referred to Theofilos as "Metropolitan of Tabor", his posting before being appointed as patriarch, and to Irenios I as "His Beatitude, the Greek-Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem".

The document reads: "The petition of Theophilos III should be rejected because the ceremony was held before a verdict was handed down. Israel had already expressed its objections about the matter in a letter written by the Minister for Jerusalem Affairs, Tzachi Hanegbi, which the Patriarchate did not take into account."

The Patriarchate's lawyer responded, defining the coronation as a "religious ceremony, that is part of Orthodox custom and belief, and the government was informed of it in advance despite its being an internal church matter."

The new Patriarch commented about Israel's attitude the day after his coronation, in an interview with the daily newspaper, Haaretz. Theophilos said Israel "was reminiscent of the Ottoman era, when the patriarchate was subject to the arbitrary discretion of the ruling sultans".

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