07/21/2005, 00.00
HOLY LAND - ISRAEL
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Jerusalem court refuses Ireneos' scheming and bares the way for Synod assembly

by Arieh Cohen

The former Greek-Orthodox Patriarch, Ireneos I, has asked for the cancellation of the naming of the locum tenens and for an injunction against the Synod meeting for the election of a new patriarch.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) -- Jerusalem's district court turned down the request made by Ireneos I, former Greek-Orthodox patriarch, to cancel the naming of Metropolitan Cornelios as locum tenens – Patriarchate curator – and for an injunction to prevent Synod bishops from meeting to elect a new patriarch.  The court has recognized that the nomination and meetings are internal elements of a religion.  Thanks to the court's decision, which removes any possible legal impediment, the Synod will be able to meet and to undertake elections for a new Greek-Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem.

On Tuesday, July 19, Judge Michaela Shidlowsky Or accepted the line of defence that had been presented by Mazen Kopti, the Synod's lawyer, and stated in reading the sentence: "Deciding on internal religious questions does not fall under the jurisdiction of this court."  The judge then added that the former patriarch "concealed from the court that he had made a similar petition to the district court in Haifa, which turned it down," and, for this reason, ruled that Ireneos settle Mr Kopti's legal fees.

It should be noted that the court's decision has no bearing on the question of the Israeli government's juridical recognition of the new patriarch.  Israel has yet to recognize either the removal of Ireneos I or the naming of the locum tenens.  Archbishop Aristarchos, Synod secretary and election front-runner, stated "The steps that we are taking are initial and will last a long time.  During this period, Israel will be able to clarify its official position on the question."

The Synod meeting was therefore held regularly yesterday: the 17 leading bishops of the assembly presented Metropolitan Cornelios with a list of candidates for the office of patriarch.  The locum tenens is now tasked with presenting the list to the governments of Israel, Palestine and Jordan and -- upon receiving their authorization -- will initiate internal procedures for new elections.

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