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Israeli court puts appointment of Greek patriarch on hold again

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    Israeli court puts appointment of Greek patriarch on hold again By Ross Dunn Jerusalem, 3 March (ENI)--Israel s Supreme Court has frozen the appointment of the
    Message 1 of 2 , Mar 3, 2004
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      Israeli court puts appointment of Greek patriarch on hold again

      By Ross Dunn

      Jerusalem, 3 March (ENI)--Israel's Supreme Court has frozen the
      appointment of the Greek patriarch of the Holy Land, Irineos 1,
      whose position was to have been approved by Israel on Wednesday,
      in response to a series of legal challenges.

      The decision taken on 25 February is the latest in a series of
      actions aimed at preventing the patriarch from confirming his
      status, more than two years after he was elected.

      The Israel Cabinet finally gave its approval to his appointment
      in January this year but this decision has been temporarily
      suspended in response to the court actions. Under a tradition
      dating back centuries, a new Greek patriarch in Jerusalem has to
      be confirmed by the rulers of the Holy Land, in this case Israel,
      the Palestinian Authority, and Jordan.

      The Greek Orthodox archbishop in Jerusalem, Aristarchos, told
      ENI on Tuesday that the church was optimistic that the legal
      challenges would be defeated. "We are hopeful and we are waiting
      for this to end and for the Patriarch to receive the official
      documents recognising his status," he said.

      One of the challenges is from an unnamed Greek Orthodox church
      leader from the Galilee region and the other is from an Israeli
      attorney, Dan Avi-Yitzchak, on behalf of an unnamed client. In
      his petition, Avi-Yitzchak repeated the claims of Israel's
      secret police alleging that the patriarch is pro-Palestinian and
      his elevation is against the interests of the Jewish State.

      The Greek-born patriarch was elected by a synod of bishops in
      August 2001 but was not initially accepted by Israel because of
      his reported warm ties with the Palestinian leader, Yasser
      Arafat. Israel also suspected Irineos might use his position to
      prevent the renewal of leases to Israelis on the large land
      holdings of the Greek Orthodox Church.

      As head of the Greek Orthodox Church, considered the most wealthy
      such institution in Israel, Irineos would be responsible for its
      extensive property holdings, including the land on which the
      Knesset (the Israeli parliament) now stands, as well as the prime
      minister's and the president's official residences, all in

      Israeli Welfare Minister Zevulun Orlev, a member of the
      ministerial committee that recommended the appointment be
      approved, said earlier this month that there is a "black cloud
      that is still hanging over his head regarding his [Irineos]
      loyalty to the State of Israel... The Patriarch is not only a
      religious leader, but also someone who owns very important
      Israeli lands - why should we take the risk? With one decision,
      he could change the status of lands on a tremendous scale, and
      thus harm our status in Jerusalem and elsewhere."

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