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The Patriarchate of Jerusalem

The long-standing tensions resulting from this situation came into the open once again in May 1992 when the Arab Orthodox Initiative Committee was founded to press for the arabization of the Patriarchate as the only way to preserve an authentic Orthodox witness in the region. It subsequently called into question the alienation of church property and other financial dealings of the Patriarchate and demanded that church accounts be made public. It also claimed that the Greek hierarchy showed little concern for the welfare of the Arab Orthodox community, symbolized by the fact that the number of schools had dropped from six in 1967 to three. The activities of the committee, however, were vigorously resisted by the late Patriarch Diodoros and the Holy Synod, who asserted the hierarchy’s freedom of action and the historically Greek character of the Patriarchate.

The Jerusalem Patriarchate has also taken a rather negative stance towards the ecumenical movement: in 1989 it withdrew its delegates from all the bilateral theological dialogues in which the Orthodox Church is engaged. The Patriarch stated that other Christians were using the dialogues as a means of proselytism, and that, since the Orthodox Church already possesses the fullness of Christian truth, it had no need to participate in such discussions.

However, the Jerusalem Patriarchate continues to take part in the activities of the World Council of Churches and the Middle East Council of Churches, and Patriarch Diodoros willingly signed joint statements with other local church leaders, especially in regard to the situation of Christians in the Holy Land. These local ecumenical initiatives prepared the way for the drafting of a common memorandum entitled “The Significance of Jerusalem for Christians” that was signed by the Patriarchs and heads of all the traditional churches present in Jerusalem, including the Franciscan Custos of the Holy Land, on November 23, 1994. Since then, the same church leaders meet about every two months in the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, under the presidency of the Patriarch. In March 2000 Patriarch Diodoros hosted a meeting between Pope John Paul II and local ecumenical leaders at the Jerusalem Patriarchate, and the Patriarchate sent delegates to meetings of the international Catholic-Orthodox dialogue in Belgrade in 2006 and in Ravenna in 2007.

Following the death of Patriarch Diodoros in December 2000, the Holy Synod elected Metropolitan Irenaios of Ierapolis as Patriarch of Jerusalem on August 13, 2001. According to regulations in effect since the Ottoman period, the new Patriarch had to be confirmed in office by the secular authorities. The government of Jordan and the Palestinian Authority quickly confirmed him, but the Israeli government did not recognize him officially until March 31, 2004.



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