patriarch theophilos aj.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The head of an organization of Greek Orthodox Christians in Israel on Wednesday called on Patriarch Theofilos III to step down.
The move, which will be officially announced at a Thursday press conference in Nazareth, comes a year and a half after Theofilos's appointment.
The declaration of no-confidence in the Greek Orthodox patriarch by the "Orthodox Congress" is especially significant both because of competition with former patriarch Irineos I, who disputes his deposal and still has Israel's backing, and because of the Church's extensive property holdings throughout the country.
"We are calling on the patriarch to go home," said Orthodox Congress chairman Adi Bagali.
Bagali said that members of the flock were disappointed with the patriarch, but stopped short of voicing support for Irineos.
Orthodox leaders in May 2005 ousted Irineos after reports of deals for several prime buildings near Jaffa Gate. The Church's mostly Palestinian Christian congregation denounced it as another attempt to weaken the Arab presence in east Jerusalem.
Irineos, however, has not gone quietly. He has refused to recognize his dismissal and still commands a band of loyalists. Israel, too, has not given its formal backing to Theofilos, who says he opposes the reported leases. Traditionally, the Greek patriarch needs three-way approval that includes Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, which have given the nod to Theofilos.
The official who allegedly negotiated the leases, Church financial officer Nikos Papadimas, remains a fugitive.