11/11/2005, 00.00
israel - holy land
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Israel officially "objects" to the inauguration ceremony of Theophilos III

Israeli government objects to holding this ceremony, intended to validate the removal of Patriarch Ireneos. Patriarchate's sharp reply: "Outright and inappropriate interference in our autonomy and in the religious freedom"

Tel Aviv (AsiaNews) - The Israeli government has warned on Thursday the Greek Orthodox Patriarch-elect, Theophilos III, not to hold an official inauguration ceremony scheduled for November 22, Israeli Daily Haaretz said.

Tzachi Hanegbi, the Israeli Minister in Charge of Jerusalem Affairs in the Prime Minister's Office, conveyed the warning in a letter yesterday morning to Ahmed Mughrabi, the lawyer representing the Patriarchate.

In the letter Hanegbi writes: "The state objects to holding this ceremony, which is intended to validate the removal of Patriarch Ireneos, a move that has not been recognized by the State of Israel, as is required by law."

The daily said the Patriarchate offered a sharp reply to Hanegbi's letter yesterday: "With all due respect, the Patriarch, the Synod and the Patriarchate find your letter surprising and unacceptable since it constitutes an outright and inappropriate interference in their autonomy as a religious sect and in the religious freedom of members of the Greek Orthodox congregation."

Theophilos was elected two months ago by the Greek Orthodox Church's Holy Synod to replace the ousted Ireneos. Sources in the Patriarchate say the church leaders mean to instate Theophilos officially in a ceremony at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem's Old City, followed by a reception for heads of churches and diplomats at Notre Dame Hotel.

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