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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 May, 2005, 16:42 GMT 17:42 UK
Orthodox shun Patriarch Irineos
Greek Orthodox Patriarch Irineos I
Patriarch Irineos is no longer recognised by the Orthodox Church
Orthodox Church leaders have agreed they will no longer recognise the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Irineos I.

The decision came during a gathering of representatives of 12 main Orthodox Churches in a rare synod presided over by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.

Patriarch Irineos is accused of authorising the sale of some church land in the old city of Jerusalem to Jewish investors.

The sale outraged Palestinians who regard it as their land.

Patriarch Irineos is the religious leader of 100,000 Christians in the Holy Land, most of them Palestinian.

Pressure to resign

The vote does not directly call for Patriarch Irineos' removal. But the act of refusing to recognise his authority is expected to put additional pressure on him to resign.

He can call himself patriarch, but he is not
Cornelius
The Metropolitan of Petra

The Istanbul synod was the first major pan-Orthodox summit in more than a decade. It does not actually have the authority to formally dismiss Patriarch Irineos or pick his successor. This is the job of the synod of the Jerusalem church.

Cornelius, the Metropolitan of Petra, said the vote would boost efforts by church leaders in Jerusalem to remove the patriarch.

"He can call himself patriarch, but he is not," Metropolitan Cornelius said.

Sensitive property

Patriarch Irineos stands accused of authorising the sale of some of the most sensitive property in Jerusalem - three buildings in the main square near the Jaffa Gate, that have for generations been lived in by Palestinians.

Their leases have been bought by anonymous Jewish investors.

Palestinians have always thought that in any settlement involving the division of Jerusalem, this land would be theirs.

The sale of some land to Jewish investors in the past has been followed by settlement activity aimed, some believe, at disrupting the transfer of land to Palestinians in any final settlement.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967 and annexed it in 1981, but its claim to the area is not recognised internationally.

Under international law East Jerusalem is considered to be occupied territory.

The majority of its residents are Palestinian, and Palestinians hope to make it their future capital


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