NEWS

Patriarch handed a loaded gun

Without quite formally urging the Greek Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem to resign, Greece yesterday effectively handed the embattled Irenaios a loaded gun and invited him to do the decent thing over the alleged sale of Church land in the holy city's Arab section to Jewish settlers. «Obviously, the image currently presented by the Patriarchate is not what it should be, and does not uphold its prestige,» Foreign Ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos told a press conference in Athens - called to present a damning report by Greek diplomats on the Patriarchate's part in the scandal. The allegations, printed in an Israeli newspaper this month, enraged Palestinian and Jordanian officials, while leading Arab members of Irenaios's flock demanded his resignation and called into question the presence of Greek clerics at the top of the Patriarchate's hierarchy. Greek bishops also called for his head. The patriarch denies the claims, and has repeatedly refused to step down. «We invite Mr Irenaios to reflect on the crucial state of affairs, prove himself equal to the circumstances and shoulder his historic responsibility,» Koumoutsakos said, adding that while Greece did not wish to interfere in the Patriarchate's internal affairs, «this should not be misconstrued as support for people or forms of behavior that do not uphold the Patriarchate's prestige.» Athens sent a team of experts to Jerusalem between March 21-25, to investigate the scandal. Koumoutsakos accused Irenaios of non-cooperation. «Specific documents were not made available,» he said. The report said Irenaios «focused on financial demands faced by the Patriarchate... giving the impression that he did not desire an extensive discussion of long-term leases of Patriarchate land in the Old City of Jerusalem.»

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