OPINION

Jerusalem woes

Over its long history, the Orthodox Church has frequently been plagued by internal strife, for which it has sometimes paid a high price. That is why the current crisis within the Jerusalem Patriarchate should be resolved as quickly as possible. It is self-evident that any cleric with a modicum of respect both for himself and his vocation should put the sacred institution he serves above all personal interest. It is true that the problems in this particularly sensitive sector have not arisen since Irinaios became patriarch, but have their roots in the reign of the late Diodoros. Yet even if the current patriarch believes that he is at least partly in the right, his duty at this time is to facilitate matters by providing a way out of the crisis. The important thing is to avoid provoking irreparable damage to the Greek Orthodox Church’s presence in the Holy City. Although Irinaios received a warning from the Greek government at an early date, he chose to ignore it and instead to cling to the patriarchal throne. Besides being unlikely to help his own position, this tactic has also managed to deepen the rift within the Holy Sepulchre Brotherhood, to the extent of opening up an even more dangerous front. At this stage, quite a number of officials feel strongly tempted to exploit the crisis as a means of putting forward their own claims or at least making their own mark. What is largely at stake here is the prominent position held by the Greek Orthodox at the heart of the Christian pilgrimage site. Not only the Catholics and Armenians but the Russian Orthodox Church too have all made known their ambitions, which could be fueled by the latest unpleasant events within the Jerusalem Patriarchate and could also create problems elsewhere. For years the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul has been under great pressure from the Turkish state; then there is the Alexandria Patriarchate and the Autocephalous Church of Albania. It is precisely for these reasons that all those concerned should assume their responsibilities and facilitate matters. It is of crucial importance that the solution should come from within the Orthodox Church itself, and not be the result of political intervention by foreign governments. That would create an extremely negative precedent which could prove to be a destabilizing factor in future.