Jerusalem (AsiaNews) Teophilos III, the Greek-Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, has announced his first appointments; among them Arab Archimandrite Attalah Hanna, who was made bishop, and Palestinian Galaktion, who was appointed to the Synod. For the patriarch this is a step "that deserves to be underlined and proclaimed to all".
Within the Fraternity of the Holy Sepulchre, the Greek-Orthodox clergy is overwhelmingly Greek in nationality whereas almost all 100,000 Greek-Orthodox are Arab.
Former Patriarch Ireneos I had appointed only one Arab member, Lebanese-born Sivestros, to the post of archbishop of Kiriakoupoli.
Both Hanna and Galaktio, respectively 40 and 30, will have to wait till Christmas for their episcopal consecration and acceptance in the Synod.
Archmandrite Hanna, who will become bishop of Sebastia, spoke to AsiaNews. "I thank God for the appointment," he said. He also reaffirmed his trust in the usefulness of ecumenical dialogue with the Catholic Church, which has been one of his main concerns for quiet some time.
"We must always welcome with joy others for the fate of the three monotheistic religions is to remain on this land blessed by God," he added.
Speaking to AsiaNews, a local Catholic priest familiar with recent events said: "It is a significant step, but we must still see whether the Patriarchate wants to become a truly local Church."
"They should," he said, "follow the example of the Latin diocese whose bishops and priests are largely local even if some come from abroad."
For some observers the decision to appoint two Arabs cannot but be seen as an attempt to counter Israel, which has not yet recognised the new Patriarch.
"The move is not political per se," adds another expert, "but one must understand that the Palestinian and Jordanian governments have Orthodox members, some of them quite influential. It is normal that they would want some of their own inside the religious leadership."