Leaders Act Against Patriarch of Jerusalem

Associated Press
Wednesday, May 25, 2005

ISTANBUL, May 24 -- World leaders of Orthodox Christianity voted Tuesday to stop recognizing the patriarch of Jerusalem, Irineos I, church officials said, asserting a rare unified position on the crisis facing the church in the Holy Land.

Representatives of 12 main Orthodox churches cast their votes during a rare "pan-Orthodox" synod, presided over by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the Istanbul-based spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians.

Irineos has refused to resign despite efforts by church members to depose him over allegations that his church leased property to Jewish investors in East Jerusalem, which Palestinians consider to be the capital of a future Palestinian state.

The vote does not directly call for his removal, but the act of refusing to recognize his authority puts additional pressure on him to resign.

The proceedings in Istanbul are the first major Orthodox summit in more than a decade. The gathering has no authority to formally dismiss Irineos or pick his successor. That duty rests solely with the Jerusalem church's synod, or governing council, which Irineos refuses to convene.

Cornelius, the Metropolitan of Petra, said the vote Tuesday would boost efforts by church leaders in Jerusalem to remove the patriarch.

"He can call himself patriarch, but he is not," Cornelius said.

Speaking from Jerusalem, Dimitrios, secretary for the Holy Synod in Jerusalem, said the church would start working to elect a locum tenens -- someone to execute the duties of the patriarch until a new one is installed.

"It's a day of our joy and the day of our freedom," Dimitrios said.

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