Intensifying conflict in the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem could jeopardize a Middle East peace accord, as well as strengthen Arab nationalism in Orthodox churches in the region, reports The Tablet magazine (June 25).
Much of the recent turmoil stems from the allegations that Patriarch Irineos had been selling off valuable parcels of land and property belonging to the patriarchate of Jerusalem. That the buyers of these properties have been Jewish settlers seeking to reclaim the ancient Christian section of the city has outraged Orthodox and other churches, writes Victoria Clark. Israeli settlers have long focused on buying properties in the Old City of Jerusalem as a way to create “facts on the ground” before any final peace settlement is drawn up.
Even though Irineos was ousted in May by fellow bishops, the situation still has implications for the “larger struggle that Israelis and Palestinians are waging over land in the Old City sacred to Islam.” The expulsion of Irineos has also fed a growing Arab nationalist movement in the Greek Orthodox Church.
The 200,000-strong Orthodox community in Israel and Palestine has long argued that its largely Arab membership has been excluded from positions of leadership reserved for Greeks. Although Orthodox leaders in Greece hold the power, in the current shuffle, the Arabs are pressing for Arab archbishops and 50 percent Arab membership in the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulcre, an influential group of senior clergy.