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Jordan joins the fray about Irineos I

02 November 2006

JORDAN has recognised the newly enthroned Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, despite Israel’s insistence that the enthronement was "a serious impropriety".

The previous Patriarch, Irineos I, was dismissed by the Holy Synod last May over allegations that he allowed long-term leasing of church property in the Old City of Jerusalem to Israelis.

Israel has said that it will not recognise Theophilos III, who was enthroned on 22 November, and still views Ireneos as Patriarch. Theophilos had petitioned the Israeli supreme court, to force the Sharon government to accept his appointment.

Under a centuries-old agreement, senior church appointments in the Holy Land require the approval of the powers of the land. Today these are Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and Jordan. The Palestinians have recognised Theophilos III, and Jordan has now followed suit.

The new Patriarch was received by King Abdullah in Amman on Monday. The monarch urged Christian religious leaders to "speak in one voice to the West about the challenges that face the Christian Arab presence in Jerusalem".

Theophilos III expressed the Church’s appreciation of Jordan’s support for the retrieval of property leased to Israeli firms. He has said that the Church informed the Israeli government before the enthronement.

The Israeli government has said that the enthronement was invalid because it took place before a court ruling had been made.

Irineos I still occupies the Patriarchate’s headquarters, and says that he will stay until word is received from the court. He did not attend Theophilos III’s enthronement. Without government recognition, Theophilus cannot act in his official capacity and engage with the Israeli authorities that control Jerusalem.

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