Fears of trouble in Jerusalem
Deputy Foreign Minister Panayiotis Skandalakis met with Palestinian and Israeli diplomats in Athens yesterday to express fears that flaring tempers in Jerusalem – where the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate has been accused of secretly selling land to Israelis – could disrupt this weekend’s Easter celebrations. A Foreign Ministry statement said Skandalakis «conveyed the Greek government’s concern over the prospect of increased tension in Jerusalem, particularly ahead of the lighting of the Sacred Flame.» The lighting ceremony, which has been disrupted in the past by fights between priests from Greek and other Orthodox denominations, will take place on Saturday on the spot where Christians believe Christ was buried and subsequently rose from the dead. The flame will then be flown to Greece. The land deal allegations have caused a major rift within the Patriarchate, with many senior churchmen joining Palestinians in calling for Patriarch Irenaios’s resignation. After a Palm Sunday service, scuffles broke out between protesters heckling Irenaios and Greek pilgrims.