Beleaguered patriarch replaced after July 20

JERUSALEM – Greek Orthodox clerics in Jerusalem will begin later this month selecting a permanent replacement for their patriarch, whose authority they no longer recognize, a senior clergyman said yesterday. Church rebels have been trying to oust Patriarch Irenaios over the long-term lease of church properties to groups seeking to expand the Jewish presence in east Jerusalem. Palestinians want east Jerusalem as a future capital, and the transactions have outraged the church’s predominantly Palestinian flock. Archbishop Aristarchos, one of the church rebels, said clergy would meet July 20 to draw up a list of candidates to replace Irenaios, who has resisted pressure to resign. The list will then be handed over to the three governments in the areas where the church’s congregation lives – Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority – for their review. Shorter lists will then be drawn up, and a replacement selected, Aristarchos said. He couldn’t offer a possible timetable, saying it depended largely on how quickly the three governments acted. Legally, however, church leaders can’t dismiss Irenaios. Only the Jordanian, Israeli and Palestinian governments have that power, by withdrawing their recognition of him. Only Jordan has done so. Israel is unlikely to take action that would compromise an expanded Jewish presence in east Jerusalem. In May, World Orthodox leaders declared that they no longer recognize Irenaios’s authority, and a temporary replacement was selected days later. Last month, a church tribunal in Jerusalem declared Irenaios defrocked and demoted to the rank of monk.

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