Enter Vartholomaios

The titular leader of the world’s Orthodox churches took a hand yesterday in the Jerusalem Church crisis, calling on Patriarch Irenaios, who was overthrown by a majority of his bishops last week, to refrain from further divisive action and to visit him in Turkey for talks. A statement from the office of Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios said the Church leader had invited Irenaios for talks on overcoming the crisis, and the embattled Jerusalem patriarch had accepted. «Patriarch Irenaios has accepted an invitation by Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios, and has promised that he will visit the Ecumenical Patriarchate within the next few days,» the statement said – studiously avoiding use of the title Patriarch of Jerusalem for Irenaios. Following the assertion by Irenaios’s Greek lawyer in Jerusalem that the patriarch had changed his mind and wanted Vartholomaios to visit him in the holy city, the Istanbul Patriarchate stressed that «Patriarch Irenaios has accepted the invitation… and any other interpretation or presentation of events does not correspond with reality.» On Friday, a two-thirds majority of the members of the Jerusalem Patriarchate’s ruling body, the Holy Synod, voted to dismiss Irenaios for his alleged role in the covert handover of Church land in the Arab sector of Jerusalem to Jews – a politically explosive deal in the tense Middle East. The deal infuriated Palestinian and Jordanian officials, as well as Arab and Greek churchmen and lay members. Before the altercation over the meeting, Vartholomaios wrote to Irenaios yesterday asking him not to try to convene a new Synod by replacing dissident members, saying that would be highly damaging «to the stability and the future» of the Jerusalem Church. Irenaios complied and remained in his residence surrounded by police guards. Meanwhile, sources in Amman said Jordan, which has the jurisdiction to sanction Irenaios’s dismissal, is expected to do so. Yesterday, a temporary administrative committee formed by dissidents met Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei.