Irenaios defies Orthodox leaders

Top Greek Orthodox Church officials, meeting in Istanbul yesterday, brought further pressure on Patriarch Irenaios of Jerusalem, who was deposed this month by his own bishops for his alleged part in covert land deals, to resign in order to end the embarrassing crisis. But Irenaios, who denies any knowledge of the secret handover of Patriarchate land in Jerusalem’s Arab sector to Jewish investors, insisted that he has no intention of standing down. In a further act of defiance against Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios, who convened the rare meeting of Church leaders from across the world, he accused the senior churchmen gathered in Istanbul of prejudice against him. Irenaios further argued that the meeting – which formally opens today – has no jurisdiction to rule on his case. «This is not an easy situation, and tomorrow will be a tough day,» commented Christodoulos, Archbishop of Athens and head of the Church of Greece. «We have discussed all aspects of the issue, and have heard the patriarch of Jerusalem, Mr Irenaios.» Sources said Irenaios countered calls for his resignation with the observations that «other Church leaders are also under a cloud of doubt.» When invited to elucidate, he reportedly mentioned Vartholomaios himself as an example, saying the ecumenical patriarch had been criticized by ultra-nationalist Turks. Jordanian and Palestinian officials have officially sanctioned Irenaios’s ouster, with Amman calling on rebel bishops to elect a caretaker patriarch.