05/18/2007, 00.00
ISRAEL - JORDAN
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Arab threats against Theophilus III, a new round between the Patriarch and his predecessor

The Central Orthodox Council of Jordan and Palestine has threatened to depose the current leader of the Greek-Orthodox community in Jerusalem, who, in their opinion, has not committed himself to regaining lands sold by his predecessor. The latter, according to an export, is working behind the scenes to oppose the Patriarch.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – Threats by Jordan’s government to depose the current Greek-Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, after barley two years, opens a new chapter in the ongoing saga of corruption between Theophilus III and his predecessor Ireneus I.  An export on the Holy Land explains this latest political twist and the effects it is having on the local Greek-Orthodox community to AsiaNews.

 

The Central Orthodox Council of Jordan and Palestine claimed in a statement released May 17th last that the Patriarch “had committed himself from the outset of his election to do all that was necessary to regain the lands sold to Israeli speculators by his predecessor for the good of the Orthodox Church”.

 

According to the text the head of the Greek-Orthodox Church in the Holy Land, “has not kept his word and as such may be replaced in the near future”.

 

It was the same scandal over the sale of Church land that convinced the Jerusalem synod two years ago to depose the previous Patriarch and declassify him to the rank of monk.  His substitution however provoked a diplomatic feud.  According to many laws and common practices every single nomination must first be approved by the governments of Jordan, Palestine and Israel.

 

The first two governments, two months before Theophilus III’s election confirmed his nomination.  Israel’s case has yet to resolved however because Jewish speculators are involved in the land scandal.

 

To this very day there has still been no official confirmation, and from Jerusalem some sources confirm that the Israeli silence, which has been marked up to exclusively economic-political reasons, will not be broken until a way has been found to “save face”.

 

Now with this u-turn from Amman, the export continues, “the whole situation could be completely overturned, with two governments against and one in favour.  The Orthodox Church can certainly go back on its decision, given that the nomination was approved by Constantinople’s Pan-Orthodox Synod”.

 

Moreover, he adds  “many think that it’s really all about an internal power struggle: the Jordanian governments decision may have been influenced by the powerful lobby of the Orthodox Arabs, who aim to replace Theophilus with bishop Attalah Hanna, a man who the Patriarch himself appointed bishop”.

 

The “Arab faction”, he concludes, “is supported by Ireneus I who, despite the fact he is Greek, prefers to support the current strong trends against the Jerusalem and Constantinople Synods”.

 

Whatever the truth may be, the present situation is “a cause for concern in the Custody of the Holy Land”.  Fr. Atanasio ofm, tells  AsiaNews: “As Christians we need to remain united in this land.  We have very good relations with Theophilus III and we share his view on many issues of common concern.  His possible deposition worries us even if we still are not fully sure of what exactly is happening”.

 

For Fr. David Jaeger, “these events show once again how dangerous it is to allow religious appointments depend on political powers”.

 

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