Israel to recognize patriarch?

An Israeli Cabinet committee recommended yesterday that, 30 months after his election, Israel should recognize the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, the Israeli Prime Minister’s office said. The committee, headed by Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, made the positive recommendation to the government, and the issue will be debated at the next Cabinet meeting, a statement said. The Greek-born Ireneos I was elected in August 2001, but Israel refused to recognize him, sparking diplomatic protests from Athens. Israel is at odds with the patriarchate – which owns large tracts of land in Israel and the Palestinian territories – over land leases and alleged support for the Palestinians by officials close to the patriarch. Under centuries-old tradition, a new patriarch has to be confirmed by the rulers of the areas where his flock lives – in Ireneos’s case Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan. Both Jordanians and Palestinians recognized Ireneos shortly after his election. The Greek Orthodox Church is the largest Christian denomination in the Holy Land, with about 100,000 faithful. (Combined reports)