Jerusalem (AsiaNews/Agencies) – After a two-year delay, a ministerial committee has recommended that the Israeli government recognise Theophilos III as Jerusalem's Greek Orthodox Patriarch, government officials said.
The decision was made following intense international pressure. It ends an impasse that began in August 2005 when the Greek-Orthodox Church unanimously elected the 55-year-old Theophilos to the top church position.
He replaced Irineos I, who was forced out of office on May 24, 2005 by the Synod of Constantinople led by Patriarch Bartholomew I following a controversial land sale of Church property in Jerusalem’s Old City, a stone throw from the Jaffa Gate. Ireneos had also acquired a reputation for egging on his followers in hand-to-hand scuffles with the friars of the Holy Sepulchre, and for constantly creating troubles over the upkeep of holy sites shared with Catholics.
By Church law dating back to Ottoman times, every new patriarch must be approved by all of the governments in the region, namely those of Palestine, Jordan and Israel.
Right after the election Palestinian authorities were quick to announce that they would respect the Synod’s decision. Jordan took more time but eventually came out in favour of Theophilos.
By contrast, Israel has not yet recognised Ireneos’ ouster by the Synod of Constantinople.
The decision by the ministerial committee to recommend the government recognise the new patriarch might stem from the latter’s petition to Israel’s Supreme Court for recognition.