New Greek Orthodox patriarch lambasts Israel

The new Greek Orthodox patriarch of the Holy Land says Israel is not recognizing him in an effort to extort his support for the controversial lease of church land to Jewish groups in east Jerusalem, a church official said Sunday. Patriarch Theofilos III has sued Israel to recognize his authority, and will not approve the land deal, signed during his predecessor's tenure, the official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the press. The long-term leases enraged the church's predominantly Palestinian flock because they strengthened the Jewish presence in east Jerusalem, which Palestinians claim as capital of a future state. Church tradition requires Israel, the Palestinians and Jordan to approve a new patriarch. Israel, which wants Theofilos to back the leases, has not approved his appointment.