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Author Topic: Greek Orthodox patriarch looks to the future  (Read 1563 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: May 05, 2008, 11:22:40 AM »

From: http://www.arabamericannews.com/news/index.php?mod=article&cat=Palestine&article=976

JERUSALEM (AP) — The Greek Orthodox Church in the Holy Land is trying to recover from a moral and financial crisis, its top clergyman, Patriarch Theofilos III, told The Associated Press in a rare interview.


In recent years, the church has been shaken by secretive real estate deals with Israelis, by Palestinian laymen angry about domination by Greek priests, and by a vicious power struggle that resulted in the rare removal of an incumbent patriarch, Theofilos' predecessor.


Installed in 2005, Theofilos faces multiple challenges.


His congregation is shrinking. He is struggling to maintain a delicate balance between the church, its Arab congregants and the Israeli government. And he says he is trying to bring fiscal transparency to an institution that is the second largest landowner in the Holy Land, yet chronically in debt.


"I say that our position is the position of an acrobat," he said of his church.


It took the patriarch until December to win the required recognition from the three governments in the Holy Land — Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. For the first time in three years, he is leading Easter Week rites unchallenged.


Still, this year's Holy Week — the Eastern rite churches are marking it now — was overshadowed again by squabbling. Several days ago, on Palm Sunday, Armenian and Greek Orthodox worshippers exchanged blows during a dispute over rights of worship at Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulcher, built over the site where tradition says Jesus was buried and resurrected.


Renewed tensions were expected during Saturday's holy fire ceremony at the Holy Sepulcher.


Speaking in his office in Jerusalem's walled Old City this week, Theofilos said the Palm Sunday dispute was the result of a misunderstanding and that he hoped it could be resolved through dialogue.


"We don't want to have more problems like this because they damage and destroy the image and the spirit of such events that are really very unique," said the 56-year-old patriarch.


Before the interview, the black-robed slight patriarch greeted Greek pilgrims and handed out pictures of Jesus, while leaning on his sculpted staff.


Still, Theofilos insisted that his church has a special role as one of the oldest denominations in the Holy Land — an argument that has riled other Christian groups competing for a share of the holy sites.


"The patriarchate considers itself the host, and not the guest" in the Holy Land, said the Greek-born clergyman who grew up in Jerusalem.


Theofilos acknowledged that recent years have been difficult for his church.


"The crisis that the patriarchate passed through, it was both moral, which was the most important, and of course financial," he said. "There is no doubt about it. Now we are gradually recovering because order has been restored."


The patriarch's predecessor, Irineos I, was ousted in May 2005 amid allegations that he leased two church-owned hotels in traditionally Arab east Jerusalem to groups trying to expand a Jewish presence there.


Irineos has denied the allegations, but the leases enraged the church's predominantly Palestinian flock. Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.


Theofilos has said he considers the leases invalid because they were never presented to the church's leadership group, or synod, for approval. The dispute has since moved to an Israeli court.


The patriarch said he would honor legitimate transactions with the state of Israel, such as the long-term lease of land on which Israel's parliament was later built.


However, all future transactions would be closely studied by the church leadership, he said. "We are not going to accept anymore the patriarchate to be treated as a real estate agency," he said.


Theofilos said the synod is now reviewing all business transactions.


Acknowledging that the church was plagued in the past by corruption and mismanagement, he said that now "there is transparency concerning the administration and finances."


Israel only recognized Theofilos in December, more than two years after he was installed by his flock. During the period of limbo, Irineos refused to step down or leave his official residence. He has since been demoted to monk.


Israel's long delay in ratifying his appointment was a "grave mistake," Theofilos said.


Yet Theofilos is not a rebel — his church depends on a delicate balancing act in dealing with the three governments in the Holy Land. "The patriarchate ... emerges as a state within a state, as an entity, a very powerful entity, spiritual entity but it is an entity which lives on the ground and not in the clouds," he said.


He has also addressed complaints by Palestinian Christians that they are being kept out of positions of authority in the church. He has appointed an Arab clergyman as his spokesman, promoted another to archbishop, and appointed a third to the 18-member synod.


Palestinian Christians say Theofilos has helped restore the church's tainted image.


"People (once) were embarrassed to say they were Orthodox," said Dimitri Diliani, who had been among those pushing to remove the previous patriarch. "He (Theofilos) managed to go through a thorny road with nobody mad at him by adhering to being a head of a church."
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« Reply #1 on: May 05, 2008, 11:49:04 AM »

Prayers for Pr Theofilos III and his flock; Lord have mercy.
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« Reply #2 on: May 05, 2008, 01:06:06 PM »

May God grant him many years!
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« Reply #3 on: May 05, 2008, 01:40:57 PM »

The Church of Jerusalem needs every prayer from us. They've got quite an uphill climb.
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« Reply #4 on: May 05, 2008, 01:57:54 PM »

"People (once) were embarrassed to say they were Orthodox," said Dimitri Diliani, who had been among those pushing to remove the previous patriarch. "He (Theofilos) managed to go through a thorny road with nobody mad at him by adhering to being a head of a church."

I think this is what is lacking in most if not all of the Orthodox Churches in America (jurisdictional orthodox churches in America, not the OCA). The clergy/hierarchs are trying to run both the business and spiritual sides of the church. There need to be some strict guidelines set in place to ensure this doesn't happen. The Patriarch/Priest/clergy member should definitely be responsible for the liturgical and theological, as well as moral aspects of the church. But when it comes to what to do with the church's money, whether or not to sell church property, what to prioritize for repairs, etc.; the priest should have no responsibility what so ever. Not to say that the priest shouldn't have a say in the matters of the church outside the liturgics, but he should not have the final say on such matters. The final say should ultimately rest with the Synod, Council, Parish Council, etc. as the directors of a legal corporate entity.

My apologies to those of and related to the clergy, I intend no disrespect to you, and ask you to pray for me.

On the topic however, Patriarch Theofilos seems to be doing a tremendous job.

-nick
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« Reply #5 on: May 05, 2008, 02:58:17 PM »

^ But a version of that solution, or model, is what got the deposed patriarch into trouble.

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« Reply #6 on: May 05, 2008, 03:06:16 PM »

Actually Αριστοκλής  is correct.  It was the giving of authority to a layman without  clerical oversight that brought the issue to a head.  It was the selling of property without synoldal authority that proved the embarrassment in this highly volitile and political area that the Jerusalem Patriarchate is forced to function within.  His Beatitude is doing well  when one looks at everything he assumed when being made the Patriarchate. 

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« Reply #7 on: May 05, 2008, 05:00:51 PM »

The discussion regarding "Property ownership in the Church" has been split off:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,15842.0.html

- Cleveland, GM
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