NEWS

Defrocked Irenaios digs his heels in

Defiant to the end, the former head of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem, Irenaios, yesterday asked Israeli police to bring him 14 bodyguards after an ecclesiastical tribunal officially defrocked him, demoting him to the rank of a simple monk. Meanwhile, Irenaios’s aide Meletios – a former Arab archimandrite who was deposed earlier this week – called for a «religious intifada» against Greek Orthodox authorities and for a stop to Greek administration of the Jerusalem Patriarchate’s property. Meletios issued the appeals while leading a march of around 200 Orthodox believers, who were protesting against his own ouster, to the office of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The caretaker patriarch, Cornelius, Metropolitan of Petra – whom the Holy Synod appointed as a temporary replacement for Irenaios last month – told Israeli police to ignore Irenaios’s appeal for protection as the former patriarch remained barricaded in the enclave he has created for himself within the Patriarchate complex. The former patriarch had been given three chances to present himself before the Patriarchate’s 12-member Synod to defend himself on charges of leasing prime Patriarchate property in Jerusalem’s Old City to Jewish investors. Irenaios had refused to attend from the outset, dismissing the procedure as illegal. A tribunal set by up the Holy Synod based its final ruling on Irenaios’s «anti-canonical and anti-ecclesiastical actions,» citing the former patriarch’s intransigence and his insistence on conducting liturgies. It called on Irenaios «to receive divine enlightenment for repentance and wisdom» and warned both clergy and faithful to «close their ears to misleading information,» without elaborating. Since last month’s decision by the Jerusalem Patriarchate to oust Irenaios over the leasing of Church property to Jewish investors – a revelation that angered many Palestinians – several Palestinian officials have expressed their concern over the alleged anti-Arab character of the Greek Patriarchate, according to certain foreign commentators.