Jerusalem rebels pick a caretaker

Rebel churchmen in Jerusalem yesterday elected a caretaker leader to replace Patriarch Irenaios, who was deposed last month for his alleged involvement in a covert land deal. Archbishop Aristarchos, general secretary of the Patriarchate, said the Holy Synod had voted unanimously to elect Cornelius, Metropolitan of Petra, 71, as a temporary leader. «We want to go to elections for a new patriarch quickly but we do not know how long it will take,» he added. Irenaios was sacked on May 6 over the leasing of Church property in Arab East Jerusalem to Jewish investors, outraging Palestinians who regard the area as their future capital. Irenaios denies the charges and refuses to step down. Yesterday, he refused to surrender his Greek diplomatic passport in return for a newly issued one which describes him as the former patriarch of Jerusalem. Meanwhile, the Israeli government yesterday set up a team to «examine all the circumstances of the subject and recommend steps to be taken,» according to a statement from PM Ariel Sharon’s office. (Combined reports)