Thursday, June 16, 2005

Israel Supreme Court prepares to wade in

I hope they're wearing blackberry-proof waders, because it could be extremely prickly.

The Israelis have so far managed to stay out of the Irineos question, although the government of Israel, along with the government of Jordan and the Palestinian Authority are legally the only ones who can ratify the ouster of Patriarch Irineos.
Now the Israeli Supreme Court has to take up the question, because of a property dispute in Galilee.

It seems that the community of Samia had lobbied to gain control over church assets there, and the patriarch had refused, because the assets were valuable and because the patriarch was concerned about the precedents. This argument continued for more than 10 years, until Irineos relented recently, agreeing to turn over everything except the church itself and an adjoining courtyard.

And then the Jerusalem Synod voted to show Irineos the door, so the whole agreement is up in the air. A parishioner in Samia who objects to the transfer challenged it in court, and Irineos, who insists he is still patriarch, stands behind it.

Now the Israeli Supreme Court will have to decide whether Irineos is patriarch or not. If so, the deal goes through; if not, well, so much for the donation to Samia.
If your head's not spinning yet, try this: The Greek Patriarch of Jerusalem, criticized for being an interloper in this church of Palestinian Arabs, gives property to a local, presumably Palestinian Arab community, which is challenged by a local resident, and the only way to get the deal to go through is to kick out the "interloping" patriarch.

The news article says that the original dispute "initially seemed like a small matter," but who owns parish property is a thorny issue all over, as the Catholic Archdiocese of Portland will attest.


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