Israel Prodded to Recognize Greek Orthodox Patriarch

JERUSALEM, Oct 29, 02 ( - The Greek Orthodox Church has stepped up pressure on the government of Israel to recognize the election of a new Patriarch of Jerusalem.

In a letter to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Church asked for official confirmation of Israel's decision to recognize the election of Patriarch Ireneos, who was chosen by the Church synod in August 2001.

Under a protocol governing church-state relations in the Holy Land, dating back to the Ottoman Empire, the governments of the region (including Jordan and Palestine as well as Israel) have the right to reject candidates for the Orthodox patriarchate. Israel had originally invoked that power to block the candidacy of Ireneos, but later relented under international pressure and allowed his election.

However, the Israeli government has never formally recognized Patriarch Ireneos as leader of the Greek Orthodox community in Jerusalem. As a result, Orthodox sources complain, the patriarch has been confined to his home, a «hostage» in the Holy Land.

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29. oktober 2002