Hopes for fresh start follow new patriarch

The Greek Orthodox Jerusalem Patriarchate sought to put months of scandal and bickering behind it yesterday by electing Theofilos, the Metropolitan of Tabor in Galilee, as its new head, despite a last-minute attempt by former Patriarch Irenaios to have the process stopped. In a show of unity that has been uncommon at the Patriarchate recently, the 14-member Holy Synod voted unanimously to install Theofilos as the new patriarch of the powerful and wealthy church. He takes over the post from the caretaker patriarch, Cornelius, Bishop of Petra, who was appointed in May after the ousting of Irenaios. The deposed Irenaios, who has fought a bitter battle to win back his seat since May, made a last desperate attempt to stop the ballot by lodging an appeal with an Israeli court on Sunday to have the election suspended. The court turned down his case yesterday morning, just minutes before the voting began. Theofilos, a Greek national from Messinia in the Peloponnese, was selected from three candidates and has served in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sephulcer and represented the Greek church in Moscow and Qatar. He is regarded as a candidate with a background that is free of controversy, which is seen as a vital quality after the Church’s tribulations in recent months. Irenaios was fired by the Holy Synod on May 7 and then had his dismissal upheld during a rare meeting of the world’s Orthodox leaders in Istanbul on May 24, after he was linked to the leasing of Patriarchate property to Jewish investors in Jerusalem’s Old City.

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