Defending his controversial decision to annex a rich Athens church and bring it under his own jurisdiction, Archbishop Christodoulos said yesterday he had secured the approval of the only Church authority competent to rule on the matter. «There was no need for a decision by the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece regarding the removal of the Church of Aghios Sostis from the bishopric of Nea Smyrni and its integration into the archbishopric of Athens,» Christodoulos said in a statement. «According to the charter of the Church of Greece, the Holy Synod is responsible for such matters… and the decision has been taken by the Synod.» The Holy Synod is comprised of 13 top Church officials, while the Hierarchy is attended by all Greek bishops. Christodoulos has come under intense fire from dissident bishops over his decision regarding Aghios Sostis, a church whose annual revenues are about 50 million drachmas (146,000 euros). The archbishop’s estranged mentor, bishop Kallinikos of Piraeus, has accused him of forging the minutes of a Holy Synod session in October, when Christodoulos says the council agreed to cede the church to him. Although the Synod did discuss dividing the bishopric of Nea Smyrni into two, Christodoulos’s critics – who include Kallinikos and the bishops of Thebes, Zakynthos and Goumenissa – say the matter of Aghios Sostis was never brought up. Yesterday’s statement by Christodoulos departs from his initial position that the matter was debated by the Hierarchy, and approved.