The former Patriarch of Jerusalem, Irineos, was in the wrong by selling land to Israel as is attested by his removal by the Holy Synod of
Jerusalem. On May 24, 2005 a special Pan-Orthodox Synod was convened in Constantinople (Istanbul) to review the decisions of the
Holy Synod of Jerusalem. The Pan-Orthodox Synod under the presidency of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew 1, voted
overwhelmingly to confirm the decision of the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulcher and to strike Irineos' name from the diptychs, and on
May 30, Jerusalem's Holy Synod chose Metropolitan Cornelius of Petra to serve as locum tenens pending the election of a replacement
for Irineos. On August 22, 2005, the Holy Synod of the Church of Jerusalem unanimously elected Theophilos III, the former Archbishop of
Tabor, as the 141st Patriarch of Jerusalem. Irineos continues to arrogantly insist, despite the decisions of the Pan-Orthodox Synod, that
he is the rightful Patriarch.
This decision was based on, among other things, the fact that Church law dictates the Patriarch must have the blessing of the Holy
Land's ruling powers — Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and Israel. But I think it’s important to look beyond the actual sale to the
consequences and implications. The majority of the Orthodox faithful in the area under the Patriarch of Jerusalem's jurisdiction are
Palestinian Arabs, though there are many Russians, Romanians, and Georgians living there as well. The Patriarchate's hierarchy is
dominated by Greeks, which in effect excludes the Arab-speaking majority of the region's Orthodox faithful from the Church's upper
ranks; this is a point of endless contention between Greeks in the Patriarchate, who are backed by the Greek government in this regard,
and the Palestinians, many of whom have left the Church for U.S.-influenced Evangelical churches or other faiths in recent decades.
I submit that this is indeed a great travesty and a blow to Orthodox unity in the Holy Land and perhaps further abroad. The Patriarch is
supposed to be the supreme shepherd of souls in his flock. By excluding the majority ethnic group in favor of the minority ethnic group
because it shares the Patriarch’s ethnicity is indeed a travesty. The Pan-Orthodox Synod’s decision was a step in the right direction to
prevent further enragement and alienation of the Palestinian Christians. Though it probably doesn’t go far enough, we must trust the
present Patriarch will begin to reverse decades of, dare I say, racist policies towards their brother Arab Christians.
Although it is indeed sad to learn that Jordan is not presently recognizing the Patriarch, the decision is based on one other important
fact. During the 1967 war, Jordan lost the West Bank and East Jerusalem to Israel (the western sector having been under Israeli
control). In 1988, Jordan renounced all claims to the West Bank but retained an administrative role pending a final settlement, and its
1994 treaty with Israel allowed for a continuing Jordanian role in Muslim and Christian holy places in Jerusalem. The 1967 war led to a
dramatic increase in the number of Palestinians, especially from the West Bank, living in Jordan. Its Palestinian refugee population —
700,000 in 1966 — grew by another 300,000 from the West Bank. The period following the 1967 war saw an upsurge in the power and
importance of Palestinian resistance elements (fedayeen) in Jordan. The heavily armed fedayeen constituted a growing threat to the
sovereignty and security of the Hashemite state of Jordan, and open fighting erupted in June 1970. The battle in which Palestinian
fighters from various Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) groups were expelled from Jordan is commonly known as Black September.
King Abdullah II of Jordan is a very pro-Western, forward thinking Arab ruler who is simply trying to maintain a delicate balance of law
and order in an otherwise unstable region. Unfortunately, Irineos’ illegal actions contributed to the regions’ instability AND made it even
more difficult for Arab Christians.
The reality is that Israel does not and should not have sole authority in these matters and I respectfully submit that if that were the
case, the results would be disatrous and probably herald world war III.