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1849[orthodox-synod] More News on Jericho

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  • Lisa Smith
    Feb 29, 2000
      Dear Fr. Alexander & list members,
      Here is a recent posting from the Orthodox world news service
      (GOARCH). Please forgive the cross-posting, but I thought it offered
      another example of how the situation is being portrayed in the mainstream

      Lisa Smith
      Arafat defends takeover of White Russian Church in Jericho

      By Samar Assad
      Associated Press Writer

      BETHLEHEM, West Bank, February 19, 2000 (AP) -- Palestinian leader
      Yasser Arafat on Saturday defended his actions in a church dispute in
      Jericho where two American nuns have been holed up in a monastery,
      refusing to leave.

      One of the nuns is a sister of George Stephanopoulos, the former aide
      to President Clinton.

      In his first public comments on the matter, Arafat told reporters he
      had stepped into the dispute to ensure that two feuding Russian
      churches would have equal access to the property.

      On Jan. 15, Palestinian police evicted monks from the Russian
      church-in-exile, or the U.S.-based ``white'' church from the Jericho
      Garden Monastery. They said they had documents showing the church
      belonged to the rival Russian Orthodox ``red'' church, based in Moscow.

      But two nuns of the ``white'' church settled into a small section of
      the monastery and have refused to leave.

      Arafat said that he had not sent police to take over the property, but
      to mediate a solution.

      ``I sent people to defuse the differences between the white and red
      churches,'' Arafat said in Bethlehem, following a meeting with the
      German president. He said he wanted to ensure that the sides would have
      equal access to the property and that the ``white'' church would be
      given state land near the compound.

      The bizarre dispute has placed the Palestinians in an uncomfortable
      position -- between the United States, where the white church is based,
      and Russia, with whom they are trying to strengthen ties.

      A compromise was worked out several weeks ago. But Sister Maria,
      originally Maria Stephanopoulos of New York, claims that ``red''
      clerics are not abiding by the agreement.

      The compromise gives much of the land to the white church and a
      residential building to the red one, leaving the chapel itself locked,
      with the keys in the hands of the Palestinians. Sister Maria and Sister
      Xenia Cesana of San Francisco, are then to move into a mobile home on
      the property pending a final settlement.

      But the nuns say the ``red'' clerics haven't moved to their designated
      part of the property, and therefore the sisters remain holed up in

      Arafat cited a similar dispute over a Hebron church in 1997, and hinted
      that the compromise deal would be the final settlement.

      ``Like in the past, when a similar dispute erupted in Hebron, we will
      give the white and the red some space, on that basis, this is how it
      will be solved,'' Arafat said.

      But members of the white church say the Palestinian Authority never
      enforced its decision to divide the Hebron church.

      The two churches split in 1917, when the communists took over the
      Russian Orthodox Church. Some clerics went into exile, forming the
      white church, which controlled most church property abroad, including
      in the West Bank.