Israeli Government Unhappy with New Greek-Orthodox Patriarch

Ireneos Now Oversees Important Real Estate Holdings

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JERUSALEM, AUG. 27, 2001 ( The recent election of Ireneos as the new patriarch of the Greek-Orthodox Church has upset the Israeli government, according to Rabbi David Rosen of Jerusalem.

The vacant see had been overseen by Archbishop Cornelius since the death of Patriarch Diodoros last Dec. 19.

Ireneos, 62, was chosen Aug. 13 from among five members of the Holy Sepulcher Confraternity, known as Hagiotaphitiki Adelphotis, which carries out the functions of the Holy Synod in this autocephalous Church. The candidates had to have the approval of the Jordanian, Palestinian and Israeli authorities.

The Israeli government, however, tried to exclude Ireneos from the list because of his partiality to the Palestinians, the Israeli press disclosed Aug. 14. Press sources said the Israeli opposition became counterproductive, and ended in the new patriarch´s favor.

Following the election, Ireneos said he would help Palestinians to assert their rights, although in a message sent to the president of the Israeli Council, the patriarch said the Greek-Orthodox Church´s policy of neutrality would remain unchanged.

Born Emmanuel Skopelitis in the Aegean Island of Samos in 1939, at the age of 15 Ireneos was admitted to the school of the Greek-Orthodox Patriarchate of Mount Zion. He was ordained a deacon in 1959, and a priest in 1965. A year later he was appointed archimandrite.

After completing studies in theology at the University of Athens, Ireneos returned to Jerusalem where he was first responsible for liturgical ceremonies and then became editor of the Neo Sion («New Zion») review. At this time, he was also appointed president of the Ecclesiastical Court of Appeal.

In 1981, while still editor of the review, he was consecrated archbishop with the title of hierapolis, and in 1994 he was promoted to the dignity of metropolitan.

As patriarch, Ireneos has become the most important real estate owner in Israel. He the leader of a Church that looks after the majority of Holy Places, and his Church also owns land in various parts of Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Ireneos rents some of this land to the Israelis for government offices.

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