Leaders of the Greek Orthodox Church in the Holy Land unanimously selected on Monday Archbishop Cornelios, the head of the church’s ecclesiastical court, as a temporary replacement for the embattled patriarch Irineos I.
The Greek government has from its side turned up pressure on the patriarch, Irineos I, to resign, issuing him a new passport that changed his title to "former patriarch," Greek Foreign Ministry officials said.
World Orthodox leaders, in a special meeting in Istanbul last week, decided they would no longer recognize Irineos I.
Such moves followed a major Jerusalem property deal with Jewish investors. Irineos has denied involvement in the deal, laying blame on the shoulders of his close aid, former financial Church officer Niko Papadimas. Papadimas fled the country several months ago, and has European arrest warrants against him.
Legally, church leaders don’t enjoy the power to dismiss the Patriarch, only the governments in areas where his flock lives – Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority – have the power to do so through withdrawing recognition of him.
Jordan did so last week, in a decree signed by King Abdullah.
For now, Israel says it won’t support anyone who opposes, in principle, the sale of property to Jews in east Jerusalem.
In its first official move, the Israeli government set up a team headed by a Cabinet minister Tzachi Hanegbi to "examine all the circumstances of the subject and recommend steps to be taken", a statement issued by PMO stated.
The Palestinian Authority seems to support Irineos opponents, However, a Palestinian official said Monday that the Palestinians’ main objective is to cancel the property deals, and that it matters little to the Palestinian government who serves as patriarch.
According to an Irineos aide, the patriarch met on Monday morning with Samir Huleileh, the Palestinian Cabinet secretary.
The patriarch has hired attorneys vetted by the Palestinian Authority to try to revoke the property transactions, according to the Palestinian official.