The Patriarch of Jerusalem requires official recognition from Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and Qatar to function administratively. The Jordanian Government has withdrawn its affirmation, which prevents Theofilos from carrying out his temporal duties (e.g., signing legal documents) in Jordan.
In a meeting late last Saturday, May 12, Jordan’s Cabinet decided to “withdraw its recognition” of Theofilos “for failing to fulfill the obligations he promised to the Jordanian Government.”
Jordan renounced its claims to East Jerusalem in 1988, but it retains custody of holy shrines in the city. The Greek Orthodox Church in the Holy Land abides by a 1958 Jordanian law banning the sale of any church property in Jerusalem, which Jordan ruled along with the West Bank until Israel seized the territories during the 1967 Middle East War.
The Jordanian Government’s decision still needs to the King’s signature, however. This past Monday, May 14, Theofilos said he is hoping for support from King Abdullah II to help resolve a crisis over the handling of church-owned property.
In an interview with both private and state-run television stations in Greece, Theofilos said he had not been given enough time to resolve the property dispute. “I have said repeatedly that the Patriarchate must be regarded as a purely religious institution. And I have said repeatedly that I am not a businessman,” he said. “In Jordan, our relations with the King are excellent.”
Greece has described Jordan’s decision as “hasty.” In Brussels this past Monday, Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyanni met with her Jordanian and Palestinian counterparts on the sidelines of an E.U.-Arab League Summit to discuss the issue and help alleviate pressure on Theofilos.
But the problem has taken on other dimensions.
According to information obtained by the National Herald, Jordan has also informed the former Patriarch Eirineos that it once again recognizes him as the canonical and legitimate Patriarch of Jerusalem.
Jordan apparently considers Theofilos persona non grata at the moment, and barred him from entering the country last Sunday. Jordanian authorities also blocked Archbishop Dorotheos of Avilon from entering the country, even though he holds both Greek and Jordanian passports, and reportedly told him that next time he wishes to enter the country, he must notify the Ministry of External Affairs in advance.
Israel also continues to refuse recognizing Patriarch Theofilos, since his election almost two years ago, and still considers Eirineos the legitimate Patriarch of Jerusalem.
Theofilos has petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court to force the Israeli State to recognize him. The Supreme Court is expected to announce its official decision concerning Theofilos’ recognition this coming Monday, May 21.
The Herald has also learned that the Palestine Authority is also considered lifting its recognition of Theofilos. At press time, an official announcement was considered imminent.
Sources from within the Holy Synod and the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulcher told the Herald that members of the Synod are skeptical about the recent developments. Some hierarchs said they are worried that, in the event they cooperate with Patriarch Theofilos, the Jordanian Government may also withdraw their recognition, as well.
Concern was also expressed among hierarchs at the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople, due to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s decision to convene a Supreme Pan-Orthodox Synod on May 24, 2005 to remove the Eirineos’ name from the Church Diptychs, placing him out of Eucharistic communion with other Orthodox Churches.
Eirineos was sacked over an alleged land deal with Jewish interest groups in East Jerusalem, which enraged Palestinians and sparked a church crisis. The crisis began in early 2005. Eirineos was accused of selling and leasing the Patriarchate’s properties in Jerusalem, including two hotels, to the Israeli investors. Eirineos still vehemently denies the charges, arguing that he had not entered into any agreement, and accused Nicos Papadimas, the Patriarchate’s accountant, of falsifying documents and performing transactions without his knowledge.
The Synod of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem then requested the intervention of the Ecumenical Patriarch to depose Eirineos. Former Greek Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs Panagiotis Skandalakis played an instrumental role in dethroning Eirineos, convincing Bartholomew to convene the Pan-Orthodox Synod, which stopped recognizing Eirineos by an 8-3 vote (with 3 abstentions).
EIRINEOS OF WRONGDOING
In March 2005, however, the Palestinian Authority charged its legal advisors, Elias Khouri and Jaward Bulus, to investigate the issues concerning the Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the property dealings under Patriarch Eirineos. The Palestinian Authority produced a 26-page document, which clearly exonerates Eirineos and lays the blame squarely on Papadimas who it clearly characterizes as duping the former patriarch.
The National Herald has obtained a copy of the document, which says that, “on March 19, 2005 the Palestinian Cabinet decided to set up a fact-finding special committee to investigate a report published by (the Israeli newspaper) Ma’ariv regarding a deal to sell property belonging to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem. The aforementioned property is located in the court of Omar Bin el Khattab inside the Old City of Jerusalem. This property included the Imperial Hotel and the building of Petra Hotel.”
The report states, “The committee pursued the probe, which was difficult and ramified, during which 17 personalities and official circles related to the issue were investigated. The investigation included some clerics and advocates currently working at the Patriarchate, as well as advocates who used to work for the Patriarchate, and who were in contact with dignitaries involved in the case.”
The investigators stated, “We did not rely on one source of information. We tried to verify it from various sources and directions. We were objective, despite taking a foregone stance by the media and through various attitudes in Palestine and outside.”
The investigators conceded that, “Our attention was drawn in particular to the organizational and administrative situation in the Patriarchate. This situation reflects a negative image manifested in deeply-rooted chaos and corruption. This makes it imperative upon the incumbents to take immediate action to put an end to this deplorable situation. We would not have touched upon this internal issue, had it not been one of the reasons that led to the case in question.”
The report states, “Eirineos’ path was not paved with roses when he assumed the leadership of the Patriarchate. From the beginning of his election to the post as Patriarch of the Holy City, he found himself engulfed with strong and shrewd opposition and contenders having close contacts with countries, officials and strong politicians in Israel, Jordan, Greece and Russia, etc… His detractors did not concede his victory and election as a Patriarch. They continued their attacks on him from all directions. They managed to convince the Israeli Government that Eirineos is anti-Semitic, and is not comfortable with the Israeli Government. No, on the contrary, that he was a pro-Palestinian. They reinforced this claim by showing copies of letters and meetings with the late President Yasser Arafat. The refusal of the Israeli Government to recognize him after his election impeded him from executing his basic duties as Patriarch. He was unauthorized even to sign a check drawn on any bank in the name of the Patriarchate. Neither was he allowed to sign any order or contract or undertaking before any official circle or any official papers. As a result, he suffered from a financial crisis which affected not only himself, but also all those who collaborated with him from among his followers or companions, be they monks or secularists alike.”
The report on Papadimas is particularly revealing: “In the summer of 2002, or around that time, the military attaché at the Greek Embassy in Tel Aviv visited Bishop Kyriakos, Bishop of Nazareth. He was accompanied by a young man named Nicolas Papadimas, a Greek from Ioannina, living in Tel Aviv and married to an Israeli immigrant from Russia. The attaché claimed that Papadimas had applied for a job at the Embassy, but the Embassy turned him down for lack of a vacancy. The attaché requested that Bishop Kyriakos help Papadimas, being a Greek, get a job at the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem. He showed his desire in finding him a job. Bishop Kyriakos agreed to recommend Papadimas to the Patriarch. In fact, an appointment was made with the Patriarch, whom he visited with Papadimas. He suggested to the Patriarch to employ Papadimas, explaining that the Greek Embassy was keen on finding him a job. The Patriarch approved of the recommendation, and assigned Papadimas to the post of accountant in the Patriarchate’s Financial Department… The Patriarch neither speaks, reads nor writes English. One day in April 2004, Papadimas came to the Patriarch with a pre-prepared text for power of attorney and asked him to sign it. The advocate claimed that he needed the power of attorney in order to lease a shop in the Old City. The Patriarch signed the document based on the explanation made by Papadimas of its contents. By signing the document, the Patriarch’s role came to an end…
“The Greek Foreign Ministry called the Patriarch, and notified him that Mr. Papadimas’ wife was arrested while entering Greece. She was carrying 120,000 euros ($160,000) and various jewelry. The Ministry inquired if her husband was actually working for the Patriarchate. The Foreign Ministry instructed the Patriarch to seal the treasury and deny Mr. Papadimas any access to it. He complied (Mr. Papadimas disappeared during this period)…
“First: On August 16, 2004 Papadimas, acting on behalf of the Patriarch, signed a lease for 99 years for the property located in Al-Moristan Aftimos Market – Al Dabbagha – Old City, known as Saint John Hotel. According to this contract, the property was leased to a company in the name of (Humberstone Ventures SA). It is a company registered in the British Virgin Islands, with anonymous shareholders, for the amount of 400,000 USD, paid in two equal installments to the Patriarchate. In addition to this amount, the company paid 7,500 USD in rent every three months.
“Second: On August 16, 2004 Papadimas, acting on behalf of the Patriarch, signed another lease contract for 99 years with a company in the name of (Richards Marketing Corporation) registered in the British Virgin Islands with anonymous shareholders. In accordance with this contract, the Imperial Hotel building located in the square of Omar Ibn Al Khattab, Baab Al Khalil, Jerusalem, was leased for the amount of 1,250,000 USD, transferred to the account of the Patriarchate in Leumi Bank in Jaffa in four installments, the first of which was 350,000 USD, then three installments each for 300,000 USD. We could not find any remittances in this amount; however, we found a remittance for the amount of $259,929 USD on August 20, 2004.
“Third: On August 23, 2004, Papadimas, acting on behalf of the Patriarch, signed a lease contract for 99 years to lease the Petra Hotel building with a company by the name of ‘Petra Ford Investment LTD,’ a company registered on ‘Quadinsi’ with anonymous shareholders, for a total amount for the whole period of the lease, of 500,000 USD, paid in two equal installments, the first within 30 days from the date of signing the agreement, and the second after 60 days as of signing. This amount was remitted to the Patriarchate Account at Leumi Bank Branch No. 80, Yafat St. Jaffa, the first on September 29, 2004 and the second on October 22, 2004. On October 19, 2004 Papadimas withdrew 150,000 USD in cash. He also withdrew another 150,000 USD on November 2, 2004. There were also withdrawals in Israeli currency from this account to unknown quarters.
“Fourth: On October 19, 2004 Papadimas, acting on behalf of the Patriarch, signed a lease contract for real estate plot No. 45, lot 30859, including the house built on it in Al-Mo’athamiyya Str. No. 18, Bab Hutta – Old City. The lease duration is 99 years for the amount of 55,000 USD in three payments, the first installment of 10,000 USD, to be paid within 30 days; the second payment for 15,000 USD, to be paid on January 1, 2005; the third for 15,000 USD, to be paid on February 1, 2005. The fourth payment for 15,000 USD was to be paid on March 1, 2005. These payments were supposed to be transferred to the Bank Leumi account. But there was no mention of these amounts in the accounts we received, bearing in mind that, despite our request to the bank, it didn’t deliver them to us. Papadimas was authorized to sign for the said account, as well as for all the Patriarchate’s accounts at the banks, in the capacity of the position he held at the time.
“We could not find in the documents, which we received and reviewed, any signature or any evidence indicating that the Patriarch received any amount of the transferred payments. In addition, the buyers’ lawyer acknowledges that he did not remit any amount to the Patriarch.”
The report concludes that, “in accordance with the information and data we received, we have not heard or received any evidence or proof incriminating Patriarch Eirineos… He did not participate in the proceedings at any stage. He did not receive any amount from any deal, despite the fact that all the payments were made to the account of the Patriarchate. The deals were never presented to the Synod of the Holy Tomb Brotherhood, because the Patriarch was not aware of them.”
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