Greek Orthodox Patriarch sues Israeli government

The newly-appointed head of the Greek Orthodox Church in the Holy Land has filed suit in the Supreme Court, demanding that Israel recognize his status as patriarch, a senior church official said Thursday. Archbishop Aristarchous, chief secretary of the church in Jerusalem, said the petition was filed Wednesday, but he could not confirm a newspaper report accusing Israel of trying to use the promise of recognition to pressure him to approve a controversial lease of Jerusalem church property to Jewish groups. Israeli court and Justice Ministry officials refused to comment on the suit. Former Patriarch Irineos was dismissed in May after months of turmoil over alleged deals turning over to Jewish nationalist groups the leases of property inhabited by Palestinians in east Jerusalem, which Palestinians claim for the capital of a future state. His successor, Patriarch Theofilos, was selected in August to replace an interim administration installed after a rare crisis summit of world Orthodox leaders. The appointment of a patriarch needs formal recognition by Palestinians, Jordan and Israel. Theofilos has so far been accepted by Jordan and the Palestinian leadership.