Israel Blocks Orthodox Patriarchate from Attending in Assisi

JERUSALEM, JAN. 25, 2002 ( A great absence was noted among those invited to attend the Day of Prayer for Peace: the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

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Officials of the patriarchate said they had not been granted permission by Israeli authorities to travel to Italy, Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls said Wednesday.

Patriarch Ireneos had named Archimandrite Nikolaos Nikodimos Farmakis and Father Rafaele Apostolos Anagnostakis as principal representatives to attend the event in Assisi.

The election of Patriarch Ireneos last Aug. 13, to succeed the late Patriarch Diodoros, greatly disappointed the Israeli government. The government tried to exclude Ireneos from the list of candidates because of his favorable attitude toward the Palestinians, the Israeli press reported Aug. 14.

After his election, Ireneos said he would help Palestinians assert their rights. Yet in a message sent to the president of the Israeli Council, the patriarch said that the Greek-Orthodox Church´s policy of neutrality would not change.

Mideast peace was one of the issues discussed by religious leaders on the train that took them from the Vatican to Assisi, reported Salvatore Mazza, one of the four journalists allowed in the convoy.

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