Monday, August 13, 2001 Av 24, 5761
Israel Time: 04:48 (GMT+3)
Last update – 14:29 13/08/2001
New Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem chosen
By Danny Rubinstein, Ha’aretz Correspondent
Metropolitan Irineos, who served as the representative for the Jerusalem Patriarch Greek Orthodox church in Athens for the past fifteen years, was selected Monday as the new Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem. Irianus was chosen to replace Diodoros I, who died in December.
The position of the Orthodox Patriarch in Jerusalem is the most important post in the Christian Holy Land. This was one of the most bitterly contested and scandal-ridden contests.
The election results will be passed to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority for formal approval, after which the new Patriarch will take office.
There were two stages in Monday’s election. In the first, 50 senior officials of the Patriarchate, most of them of Greek origin, elected three final candidates, Metropolitans Timotheos, Irineos and Kornelios, from a list of 15 possible choices that emerged after the death of Diodoros. The second stage involved a gathering of the Holy Synod of 17 senior clergymen – all Greeks – who chose one of the three candidates in a secret ballot.
The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem is in control of enormous assets which include thousands of dunams of property in Israel, the West Bank, Gaza, in Jordan and in other neighboring countries, including Turkey, Cyprus and Greece. The Patriarchate also controls hundreds of buildings – churches, monasteries, educational institutions, workshops, factories, residences, and whole streets of businesses and shops.
As a result of the high stakes involved and the enormous power the Patriarch wields, a variety of political and economic bodies tend to get involved in the election process. In recent months there were rumors of government interference, the involvement of businessmen, contractors, and even arms dealers and members of the mafia from eastern Europe.
The most recent scandal was last month when Justice Minister Meir Sheetrit told the Patriarchate the government of Israel ruled out five of the 15 candidates for the post. The decision, made by several senior officials at the Prime Minister’s bureau and in the Jerusalem Municipality, raised a storm of protest from the Patriarchate, which filed a petition at the High Court of Justice. “We were stunned and angered by the announcement, which is reminiscent of despotic regimes,” a letter sent to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon stated. Two weeks later, Sheetrit backed down and reversed the decision.