06/13/2005, 00.00
israel - palestine - holy land
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Greek Orthodox Patriarchate "hostage" of Israeli and Palestinian government

by Aryeh Cohen

The two governments have not yet recognized the removal of Ireneos and claim they have authority to determine who shall be the new Patriarch.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem has addressed an appeal "to all the religious institutions in the world and to all governments... to safeguard [the]  independence, autonomy and unity" of the Patriarchate. The appeal, dated 9 June and distributed widely by the Press Office of the Patriarchate, is signed by the interim administrator, or Locum Tenens, Metropolitan Cornelios. It protests the refusal of the Israeli and Palestinian governments to recognise the canonical removal from office of the former Patriarch, Ireneos, and contrasts this refusal with the correctness of the attitude taken by the Kingdom of Jordan, which "responded immediately and recognised the dismissal of Mgr. Ireneos, and the election of the Locum Tenens, in order to lead the Patriarchate to elections" of a new Patriarch.

The appeal rejects the claim of governments that they have authority to determine who shall govern, or not govern, the Patriarchate.  It says that, while "it is true that, for historic reasons" the election of either the Patriarch or the Locum Tenens is customarily "approved" by the local governments, this "approval" is simply "an indication of mutual respect and trust and the recognition by the government/s of the will of the Church. It was never meant to be a vehicle for intervention, directly or indirectly, in the internal affairs of the Church." Instead, in the present situation, the Locum Tenens observes, the Patriarchate is being reduced "to a status of hostage, unable to fulfil its mission and provide for its administration."

Ireneos I is accused to have secretly sold to Jewish investors real estate in the Old City not far from Jaffa Gate that belonged to the Patriarchate. As a result of this act, the Jerusalem Synod removed him from office on May 7. On May 24 the pan-Orthodox Synod in Istanbul (Constantinople) stripped Ireneos I of its title of patriarch. Since then the Government of Israel has sent armed police into the Greek Orthodox monastery in the Old City of Jerusalem to keep ex-Patriarch Ireneos in possession of the Patriarch's apartments, against the will of the Patriarchate's Synod.

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