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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Israel boycotted the enthronement Tuesday of the new Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilus.
Greek President Carolos Papoulias and representatives from Jordan and the Palestinian Authority attended the enthronement ceremonies, which took place in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Patriarchate, both in the Old City, and at the Notre Dame Hotel.
Clergy representing all 15 autocephalous Orthodox Churches, including Russia, Syria, Serbia and Romania also attended.
Daniel Rossing, Director of the Jerusalem Center for Jewish Christian Relations, commenting on Israel's absence, said that the state of Israel missed a golden opportunity to strengthen its status in Jerusalem and to rub shoulders with church leaders from all over the world.
"Ch urch leaders and foreign politicians will get used to the idea that Israel is not present at central religious functions that take place in Jerusalem."
Rossing, who is a former director of the department for Christian communities in the Religious Affairs Ministry, said, "As someone who has represented the state in important religious events, including previous enthronements, it was painful for me to see that there was no official representative of Israel alongside the other officials."
Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Tzahi Hanegbi, who is responsible for Jerusalem affairs for the government, said that Israel opposed the enthronement of Theophilus.
"There is a High Court decision pending on the matter," said Hanegbi in a letter to Theophilus. "The enthronement also finalizes the ousting of Irineos, whom Israel still recognizes as patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church."
Father Innocent, a Greek Orthodox clergyman responsible for schools in Israel and Jordan, said in response to Israel's posi tion, "The patriarchate always informs sovereign governments when a Patriarch is replaced and asks for ratification. But the government has no right to interfere in our ecclesiastical independence."
Irineos was deposed by a Holy Synod that convened in I s tanbul in May after he was accused of signing long-term leases on chunks of prime real estate in Jerusalem's Old City, including the Imperial Hotel and the Petra Hotel near Jaffa Gate, to Ateret Kohanim, an organization dedicated to creating a Jewish pr es ence in Arab-populated areas of Jerusalem.
Both Irineos and Ateret Kohanim deny the deals and an investigation conducted by the Palestinian Authority backed up Irineos. But due to internal Greek politics and a power play within the Greek Church, the a ccu sations against Irineos were used to oust him.
Greece, Jordan and the PA have recognized the ousting of Irineos and the appointment of Theophilus. Israel has not. i