Arutz Sheva is a very right-wing organization the reports of which ought to be taken with a grain (or two or eight) of salt.
The following was in March 2's Ha'aretz
(one of Israel more highbrow, if rather left-wing, daily newspapers:
Last update - 01:08 03/03/2005
Greek Orthodox Church hurt by allegations about cloudy figure
By Meron Rapoport
A political hot potato, allegedly involving the patriarchs of the Greek Orthodox Churches in Jerusalem and Athens and a man reportedly wanted by Interpol, has brought Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Panagiotis Skandalakis to Israel yesterday for a series of meetings with Greek Orthodox officials.
According to reports in the Greek press, Apostolos Vavilis, said to be a former drug dealer, has ties to Athens Patriarch Christodoulus, head of the Greek Orthodox Church in Athens, and to Jerusalem Greek Orthodox Patriarch Irenios, with whom Skandalakis met yesterday.
The fact that Vavilis, who is said to be wanted by Interpol for drug offenses in Italy, has been linked to high church officials has created a political crisis in Greece, one that is threatening to force the resignation of Christodoulus, one of the most powerful men in Greece.
According to the Greek press, Vavilis presented himself in Greece as a Mossad agent, and even sold Israeli-made armored vehicles to the Greek police. During a stay in Israel about three years ago, when he was said to have played a part in the election of Irenios as patriarch, Vavilis supposedly told Israeli acquaintances he was going to convert to Judaism or that he had already done so.
Sources in the Jewish community in Athens said yesterday that Vavilis had not converted to Judaism in Greece nor had he received any document attesting to a conversion.
After initially denying that he knew Vavilis, Irenios last week said Christodoulus sent Vavilis from Athens to Jerusalem to monitor the patriarchal elections. Christodoulus, however, says he met Vavilis once several years ago, and that he was "very sorry" to hear Irenios' statements.
If a link between Christodoulus and Vavilis is proved, the patriarch is likely to be forced to resign, an extraordinary event in the Greek Orthodox Church.
And this was in today's Financial Times
(that august bastion of the British establishment):
Israeli ruling leaves Greek church in a spin
By Harvey Morris
Published: March 14 2005 02:00 | Last updated: March 14 2005 02:00
In the latest twist in an episode that has rocked the Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem to its 16-centuries-old foundations, an Israeli court has ruled that the 2001 election of its patriarch, Irineos I, was illegal.
The case has exposed a bizarre tale of intrigue involving a fugitive drug dealer, missing millions from church coffers and an alleged assassination plot against the patriarch by a priestly rival that has left the Greek-born hierarchy and its Palestinian laity reeling.
Coupled with allegations of illicit land deals and sexual misconduct within the priesthood, the crisis has prompted a senior churchman to warn of a potential split in the Holy Land's richest Christian institution. The Greek patriarchate is Israel's biggest landowner apart from the government, owning prime areas of Jerusalem real estate that include the site of the Israeli parliament.
The crisis has involved Israel's cabinet and the Greek government. The latter this month dispatched Panayiotis Skandalakis, deputy foreign minister, for emergency talks.
The ruling this month against the Patriarch Irineos by Israel's Jerusalem district court related to his election by a17-member church synod to replace the late Diodoros I. Irineos won seven votes against five each for his rival archbishops, Corneleos and Timotheos.
A senior Palestinian-Israeli layman who brought the case against Irineos alleged his election was illegal because it was won with the help of known criminals dispatched from Greece, including Apostolos Vavilis; a convicted drug smuggler who traveled to Jerusalem in 2001 when already on Interpol's wanted list. He has since disappeared.
Mr Vavilis has been named in Greek investigations as an associate of Archbishop Christodoulos, head of the Church of Greece, who faces a crisis of his own after publicly apologising last month in the face of allegations priests had been involved in trial-fixing, smuggling and illicit sexual escapades.
The choice of the 65-year-old Irineos was immediately divisive. The Israeli government, which along with Jordan and the Palestinian Authority must endorse the election, refused to recognise a patriarch it saw as close to the late Yassir Arafat.
Greek and Palestinian prosecutors began investigating allegations that Timotheos offered a Palestinian hitman $250m ( (GÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â©Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¼186m, -ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Âº130m) to assassinate Irineos. A "confession" by the would-be killer was found to be a malicious attempt to discredit the patriarch's electoral rival.
While the patriarch awaited Israeli recognition, belatedly granted last year by the cabinet of Ariel Sharon, prime minister, he entrusted church finances to Nicolaos Papadimas, the patriarchate's financial manager. Mr Papadimas has disappeared with his Israeli wife since an indictment was issued against them relating to between GÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â©Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¼1m and GÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â©Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¼6m ($1.3m, -ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Âº700,000 and $8.1m, -ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Âº4.2m) missing from church accounts.
The patriarch's problems did not end when Mr Sharon reversed his opposition to Irineos. The prime minister's rightwing opponents claimed the endorsement was a payoff for Irineos's role in the so-called "Greek island affair" in which it was alleged Mr Sharon corruptly supported a resort project in Greece by a leading Israeli developer.
Menachem Mazuz, Israeli attorney-general, last year decided not to proceed with an indictment against Mr Sharon. Oday Bajali, a Greek Orthodox Israeli Arab who has closely monitored developments, said no evidence had been produced to link Irineos to the Greek island affair. Patriarch Irineos contests the Jerusalem court decision with an appeal drafted by Gilead Sher, one of Israel's most prominent lawyers. Pending the appeal, he remains in office despite the lower court's order that Archbishop Corneleos, as locum tenens or placeholder, must hold new elections.
The Irineos camp called on Corneleos to drop his locum tenens role, but the patriarch's rival in the 2001 election has told church members that he will not do so.
At the roots of the crisis are tensions between the Greek hierarchy and a Palestinian laity that accuses it of leasing church land to the Israeli government and developers at artificially low prices.
In the Israeli-Arab town of Nazareth, where locals have been fighting a plan to lease 100 acres of church land to an Israeli developer, there have been accusations of homosexual affairs within the priesthood that echo the scandal in Greece.
Mr Bajali said the affair had little to do with Greek-Palestinian rivalries or with the allegations of homosexuality. "If it's a choice between corrupt and homosexual priests, better the homosexuals. In any case, the Palestinians aren't capable of taking over if the Greeks left. We'd just have to shut down the church."