COMMENT

Patriarch Irenaios must step down

If the Greek Church is mired in multiple corruption scandals that have injured its standing and moral status, the parallel crisis that has hit the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem has more dangerous implications. In fact, the scuffle could cause irreparable damage. The open involvement of Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority have lent the ongoing crisis a clearly political dimension. At stake is the very Greek Orthodox identity of the Patriarchate. It should be remembered that the Patriarchate controls vast property in Jerusalem, including large areas inside the Old City. It also holds a prominent position in homage paid to the major Christian pilgrimage site. Caught between the conflicting objectives of the official Israeli state and the relatively small Arab flock, the Patriarchate has always had to be quite flexible in order to survive. The problem is it went too far. It is the very actions and omissions of senior clerics that now threaten the centuries-long presence of the Greek Orthodox faction in Jerusalem. As things presently stand - with near-daily allegations tarnishing the name of Greece - the government was left with no other option but to put pressure on the Jerusalem patriarch to step down. That was indeed the bent of Greece's Foreign Ministry official who yesterday called on «Patriarch Irenaios to realize the gravity of the situation... and assume his historic responsibility.» Things have been rather obvious for some time, yet Athens chose to exhaust all other alternatives before calling on Irenaios I to quit. It did so, first, because it did not want to meddle in the internal affairs of the Patriarchate and, second, because it knows that such changes always entail consequences. But, in light of the burgeoning crisis, there is no other solution. The Greek government ought to push for a solution that would ease the pressure and restore order. Kathimerini has so far avoided any sentimentalist approach to the crisis. But we now feel the need to add our voice to critics who say Irenaios should quit to ease the pressure on the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

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