Israel Makes Conditions for Recognising Jerusalem Patriarch

The saga of the Greek Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem rumbles on; Haaretz reports:

Israel is demanding that the Greek Orthodox patriarchy conduct a census of all church property in Israel and the Palestinian territories ahead of its sale or long-term lease, and to give Israel the first right of refusal on the property. Israel is also asking that the property purchased by Jewish organizations in the area of Jerusalem’s Jaffa Gate will “remain in the hands of the Israeli lessees,”

…Sources close to [Patriarch] Theophilos said his attorneys were told that the acceptance of the clauses in the document were a condition to Israel’s recognizing him as patriarch.

The property at Jaffa Gate had been leased to a Jewish settler group as part of a plan to increase Israeli hegemony over Palestinian parts of the city; the above would appear to confirm suspicions that the group was doing the bidding of the Israeli government.

The sale had been made during the watch of Patriarch Irineos, much to the displeasure and embarrassment of Greek Orthodox Palestinians. Irineos blamed his financial advisor, Nicholas Papadimas, for the sale; Papadimas’ subsequent disappearance is just one of several murky elements to the story – Irineos’ 2001 election was said to have been arranged with the help of a Greek drug dealer, and a rival bishop who wanted the patriarchal job for himself is alleged to have tried to arrange a hit-man to create a vacancy. I blogged on all this here.

Irineos was deposed two years ago, but, remarkably, he’s still soldiering on:

Irineos also said his dismissal by the Synod is illegal and that he wants the government to continue recognizing him as patriarch.

Israel has continued to back Irineos, despite the fact that it tried to block his election in 2001, and despite Irineos’ tendency to refer to Jews as “the descendants of the crucifiers of our Lord”.

(Hat tip: Christianity Today Weblog)