Irenaios leads raid on Patriarchate

The ousted head of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem, Irenaios, yesterday enlisted the help of some 20 Arab supporters to force his way into his former office, even as Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas approved a decision to defrock the disgraced cleric. A punch-up ensued between Irenaios’s supporters and Patriarchate officials who wanted him evicted from the premises, resulting in minor injuries to a novice monk and an Israeli policeman. Irenaios reportedly returned to his living quarters in the Patriarchate complex after the fracas, but his supporters refused to leave before receiving the 1,000 shekels (around 200 euros) they had each been promised for their services. Sources said the delay had been caused by Irenaios’s reluctance to pay up. His supporters eventually left after Irenaios gave them the money. Deputy Foreign Minister Panayiotis Skandalakis, whom Irenaios has accused of engaging in diplomatic contacts to depose him, yesterday condemned «the violent occupation of the Patriarchate by trouble-makers.» The damage caused to the complex, including several broken doors and windows, «demonstrates the intent to hinder the procedure of electing a new patriarch,» Skandalakis added. He said the incident should not upset efforts to «reestablish order and calm to the Patriarchate.» The appointment of a new patriarch must be backed by Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. The latter two have approved Irenaios’s ouster, but Israel has refused to take a stand on the matter. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas rubberstamped Irenaios’s dismissal yesterday. Church elders in Jerusalem elected an interim patriarch – Cornelius, Metropolitan of Petra – on May 30 following Irenaios’s dismissal by the Holy Synod on May 7. The decision, taken after Irenaios was charged with leasing prime Patriarchate property in Jerusalem to Jewish investors, was upheld during a meeting of the world’s Orthodox leaders in Istanbul on May 24.

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