5 May 2005

5 May 2005: A long-brewing schism at the Greek-Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem breaks out into the open shortly after Easter celebrations, as over a dozen bishops denounced Patriarch Eirinaios (photo) on May 5 and declared they no longer recognise his official acts. The rebellion came on the heels of incontrovertible proof that Eirinaios' advisor had leased church property at the Jaffa Gate in the Old City of Arab East Jerusalem to Jewish investors, sparking the outrage of Arab Christians in the Holy Land. Some Israeli journalists believe a branch of the Israeli state leased the land, namely the Himnuta company, a subsidiary of the Jewish National Fund, working through an offshore

company in the Bahamas. Greek churchmen and diplomats see a 'Chinese water torture' in the staggered manner of state­controlled Israeli press revelations, aimed at stirring up tension. The denunciation of Patriarch Eirinaios of Jerusalem by 14 of his 18 bishops and 23 archimandrites signalled the beginning of the end of the embattled patriarch. It has also triggered the active involvement of Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos, who called a Pan-Orthodox Synod of the heads of the independent Greek Orthodox Churches to dethrone Eirinaios and replace him with Archbishop Theophilos, three months later. The bishops declared on May 5 that they no longer recognise Eirinaios as patriarch or any of his official acts, and that they will appoint a three­member rotating committee to govern the patriarchate, following revelations that he had signed the power of attorney with which his financial advisor, Nikos Papadimas, leased the lands to the Israelis. The bishops' text alleges that Papadimas embezzled millions of dollars from such deals, but privately the bishops charge that Eirinaios split the money with his sister Maritsa and Papadimas. .'W£' renounce Patriarch Eirinaios and consider him accused in front of a major synod, canonical authority, and our brotherhood, and we do not recognise any decision of his, nor the right to convene the Holy Synod, in accordance with the internal charter of the patriarchate and the Jordanian Law of 1958, as well as the c:!.'rrent composition of the synod, and we appoint a three-member committee, in rotation, for further action,' the two-page denunciation of Eirinaios concluded. Two years later, the state of Israel still refuses to recognise the new Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem, over his unwillngness to validate in writing all official acts of his predecessor, including illicit handovers of church lands to Israeli interests

Dimitris Yannopoulos

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