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Catholic World News News Feature

Israeli police support ousted Orthodox patriarch June 02, 2005

Although the Greek Orthodox synod has voted overwhelmingly to oust Patriarch Ireneos of Jerusalem, Israeli police are maintaining the controversial prelate in office, the AsiaNews service reports.

In a detailed analysis written from Jerusalem for AsiaNews, Father David Jaeger, a Catholic expert on Church-state relations in Israel, remarks that the Israeli government's involvement in the dispute among Orthodox leaders is an evident violation of the regime's promise of religious freedom.

Patriarch Ireneos, who has clashed repeatedly with other Christian leaders in Jerusalem, was condemned by his own faithful when it came to light that he had sold property inside the walled Old City to Jewish investors. The transfer of property was seen as a betrayal by Orthodox believers who are intent on maintaining the Christian presence in Jerusalem. After bishops in the region announced that they would no longer accept Ireneos' leadership, the Orthodox synod voted to remove him from office.

In a tradition dating back to the Ottoman empire and beyond, the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem must be confirmed by the government. Jordan, which controlled the city before 1968, still claims that right; Israel has never asserted it. But Israeli authorities have not acknowledged the Orthodox synod's decision to depose the patriarch and elect a successor.

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