Irineos I, the Greek Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem who is fighting efforts to remove him from the position, entered the Patriarchate compound in Jerusalem on Wednesday, accompanied with a group of guards, and took over the room that used to be his office, Israeli media sources reported.

A scuffle erupted between Irineos’ companions and priests who attempted to prevent them from entering the church.

Last month a church court demoted Irineos to the status of monk, in effect making him ineligible to serve as patriarch, after he was accused of involvement in leasing church property in the Old City of Jerusalem to right-wing Jewish groups. 
The allegations, which Irineos denies, provoked anger among Palestinians, who oppose Jewish efforts to take permanent control of all of Jerusalem.  The patriarch is the religious leader of 100,000 Christians in the Holy Land, most of them Palestinian.

Irineos has refused to accept his dismissal, but has been kept out of his office by his opponents.

The ouster of the patriarch will take legal effect only if approved by the Palestinian Authority and the governments of Jordan and Israel. Jordan announced its approval several weeks ago, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas issued a similar decree yesterday. So far, however, Israel has insisted that Irineos remains the Patriarch of Jerusalem.

A Palestinian ministerial committee last week cleared Irineos from charges of direct involvement in the leasing of church property to the Jewish investors.  Another committee, however, is still probing his involvement in the sales deal.

Irineos published a statement on Wednesday dismissing two archbishops, denouncing them as church outlaws and warning the public against cooperating with them.