Patriarch gets breathing space

Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis’s meetings yesterday with her Jordanian and Palestinian counterparts appear to have gained some time for Greece’s Orthodox patriarch in Jerusalem, who was last week deprived of official recognition by Amman. Sources have told Kathimerini that Jordanian authorities will put off seeking King Abdullah’s approval of their decision and give Theophilos III time to fulfill certain longstanding demands of Arab believers in Jerusalem. These demands include an update of the patriarchate’s assets, following a 2005 land scandal, and the inclusion of Arab representatives in the local Synod. According to the same sources, the patriarch will have two months to fulfill these demands. «This is the last chance for the patriarch, for all of us,» an Orthodox cleric in Jerusalem told Kathimerini. Bakoyannis held meetings with her Jordanian and Palestinian counterparts, Abdelelah Al-Khatib and Ziad Abu Amr, respectively, on the sidelines of a meeting between Arab League and European Union officials in Brussels. After the meetings, Bakoyannis reiterated Athens’s stance on the issue, remarking that «hasty actions do not allow the necessary time for decisions to be taken by the patriarch.» Ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos said that the meetings were carried out «in a friendly atmosphere» but added «we are obviously concerned.» Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros stressed that «the government will stand by the Patriarchate and do everything humanly possible to reinforce it.» In comments made before Bakoyannis’s meetings in Brussels yesterday, Theophilos appeared reassuring, insisting that his relations with King Abdullah were excellent. «It is not Jordan that has withdrawn its support – it is the government, not the king,» he said. «The Patriarchate has gone through so many trials and has always come back to the fore,» he added. There was no update from Amman yesterday but sources said that Dorotheos, the bishop of Abilon, was barred from entering the country on Sunday despite having a Jordanian passport.