NEWS

Irenaios to fight on

The beleaguered Patriarch of Jerusalem, Irenaios, appears to be heading for a showdown with other Christian Orthodox leaders after claiming yesterday that he would attend a rare meeting of the Church’s heads at the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul on Monday. «Of course, I will go to the Phanar. Why would I not?» said Irenaios, apparently putting an end to speculation that he would avoid confronting the senior clerics who represent 14 other Orthodox churches as well as Patriarch Vartholomaios, the spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians. Patriarch Alexios of Moscow has informed Vartholomaios that he would be unable to attend the extraordinary Synod after doctors advised him against traveling. His place will be taken by Bishop Kyrillos of Smolensk. Patriarch Irenaios has come under increasing pressure to resign in recent weeks after allegations that he was involved in the secret leasing of Church land in the Arab sector of Jerusalem’s Old City to Jewish investors. The claims angered the Jordanian and Palestinian governments and prompted some Arab Christians to vociferously demand his removal. Irenaios denies the allegations and has stood firm against demands to step down. A clear majority of clerics from the Jerusalem Patriarchate’s ruling body, the Holy Synod, voted earlier this month to depose him and appointed a three-member committee to administer the Patriarchate in his place. «Other people are responsible for the image that has been emanating from the Jerusalem Patriarchate recently. I have been in the Holy Land since I was 13 and have proved my devotion, love and respect to the body I serve,» said Irenaios yesterday after journalists cornered him outside his official residence. There had been rumors that Irenaios would try to convene a fresh Holy Synod and have the decision against him reversed after he tried to obtain the keys to the Hall of the Throne – a request that was refused by his opponents. «Why would I call a Synod? The Hall of the Throne is my office and nobody has the right to lock it and take the keys,» said the patriarch. Although Monday’s Synod will not have the power to directly sack Irenaios, the clerics could refuse to recognize him any longer, thereby making his position untenable. Patriarch Vartholomaios has told close aides that he wants Irenaios to resign.