NEWS

Previous governments bear their share of blame for latest crisis

There is no point in lingering over the wave of fury that spread among all Palestinians (and Jordanians), Christians, and Muslims over these unholy transactions in the Holy City, which for them are matters not only of great symbolic value but also of national survival. («It’s like your archbishop selling the Acropolis to the Turks,» an Arab diplomat told Kathimerini). The issue of the «Arabization» of the Orthodox Patriarchate did indeed gain prominence. However, that has retreated into the background, thanks in part to the calm, rational stance taken by the Palestinian and Jordanian leaders, and in part to the laborious and productive endeavors made – far from the eyes of the media – by the Greek Foreign Ministry, and in particular by Deputy Foreign Minister Panayiotis Skandalakis. He made every effort to persuade Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas and King Abdullah of Jordan to rescind the decisions made by their cabinets to oust Irenaios before the synod of Orthodox Churches at the Phanar so as to help Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios issue the decision. The outcome remains far from certain. Asked whether the dismissal of Irenaios would mark an end to the crisis, all the Arabs we spoke to who are informed about the issue seemed highly doubtful. The usual response (with which we cannot agree) was: «We cannot find a single clean individual among his aspiring successors.» What is certain is that under the pressure of recent revelations, Palestinians and Jordanians (who co-ordinate closely) will at least ask for an audit of the Patriarchate’s financial activities, and for the representation of Arab Christian clerics on the Holy Synod (probably six out of 17 members), in order to support whoever is elected as the next Patriarch. Recent events have raised the major issue of the political responsibility of former Greek governments in the crisis at the Jerusalem Patriarchate. It is paradoxical: The foreign policy of Costas Simitis’s government showed no interest whatsoever in the Middle East during a very torrid period, and Simitis himself did not visit a single Arab country during his eight years in office. At the same time, however, Greece seemed to be exerting surreptitious pressure in the region by means of secret service agents and religious figures – a policy which ended tragically with the Patriarchate being held hostage by the Israeli state and the indescribable trivialization of the past weeks. How is it that such a (partially justified) fuss arose over the involvement of the Church of Greece in the affairs of the worldly state on the issues of the identity cards, when nobody is interested in the provocative «political mobilization» of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem and its painful effect on the international prestige of Greece?