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Unclear whether Israel will cooperate with new Greek Orthodox patriarch

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    2005.05.31 Haaretz/AP: w w w . h a a r e t z . c o m Last update - 01:03 31/05/2005 Unclear whether Israel will cooperate with new Greek Orthodox patriarch By
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 1 3:26 PM
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      2005.05.31 Haaretz/AP:
      w w w . h a a r e t z . c o m
      Last update - 01:03 31/05/2005

      Unclear whether Israel will cooperate with new Greek Orthodox patriarch

      By Arnon Regular, Haaretz Correspondent, and The Associated Press

      Leaders of the Greek Orthodox Church met in the Old City of Jerusalem
      Monday to select a temporary replacement for its embattled patriarch.

      Fourteen out of 17 members of the Holy Synod in Jerusalem named Archbishop
      Cornelios, the head of the church's ecclesiastical court, to take the place
      of Irineos I until a permanent replacement is found.

      Cornelios also served as temporary patriarch before Irineos' appointment
      nearly four years ago. It is still unclear whether Israel will decide to
      cooperate with Cornelios.

      For the past two months, Irineos has been embroiled in a controversy over
      the long-term leasing of choice church property to Jews. Reports of the
      leases have aroused the furor of the Palestinians who make up most of the
      church's flock.

      The church has said its land deals were conducted by its former financial
      officer, Niko Papadimas, who vanished several months ago, and has European
      arrest warrants against him. Irineos has insisted he didn't know about the
      leases.

      The Greek government, meanwhile, turned up the already fierce pressure on
      Irineos to resign, issuing him a new passport that changed his title to
      "former patriarch," Greek Foreign Ministry officials said.

      In its first official step, the Israeli government set up a team headed by
      a cabinet minister to "examine all the circumstances of the subject and
      recommend steps to be taken," according to a statement from the Prime
      Minister's Office.

      Irineos has repeatedly declared he would not step aside and is trying to
      recruit support from Palestinians and Israelis, even though the controversy
      has prevented him from wielding the powers of a patriarch. Legally, though,
      church leaders cannot dismiss him: Only the governments in areas where his
      flock lives - Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority - have the power
      to do that, by withdrawing recognition from him.

      Jordan did so last week. For now, Israel says it won't support anyone who
      opposes, in principle, the sale of property to Jews in East Jerusalem.
      A Palestinian official said Monday that the Palestinians' main objective is
      to cancel the property deals, and that it matters little to the Palestinian
      government who serves as patriarch.
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