The Synod is the highest decision making body in the Greek Orthodox Church and the church leadership announced on Thursday that it would be ending all contact with Patriarch Irineos I due to corruption suspicions. They added that from this point onwards they would consider the Patriarch dismissed – however, this decision is non-binding.
It has been reported that the Patriarch has been under fierce criticism over a recent deal regarding church property in Jerusalem being leased out to a Jewish group. On the face of the transaction there seems nothing extreme and is actually entirely legal. However, politically the move is potentially explosive in the region as Palestinians see this as abetting Jews in their efforts to impose themselves into east Jerusalem.
The tense region is extremely volatile as Palestinians consider that sector of the city to be the new capital of their future state – where as the Jewish community have claimed that the entire city is their eternal capital city.
Irineos was accused of being, "Incorrigibly caught up in a syndrome of lying, religious distortion, degradation of the patriarchate's role, and irresponsible mishandling of patriarchate property."
On Friday the Synod officially endorsed the decision which formally dismissed Irineos.
The Church spokesman, Attalah Hanah said, "We decided to fire him and he left today and we don't know where he went."
Since March Irineos has been under pressure to resign when a newspaper in Israel released a report accusing him of leasing property, including 2 hotels, to a firm in Israel; this it was pointed out would increase significantly the Jewish presence in east Jerusalem – a traditionally Arab sector.
Although Irineos has denied all allegations, the Church leaders will now commence a process to elect a new Patriarch.
The Head of a Palestinian ministerial committee, Emil Jarjour, who investigated the land deal was reported by the Guardian newspaper as saying, "We know that a majority of the Holy Synod met today and decided to dismiss the patriarch and according to the law they have the right to do so. Now they are taking the necessary steps to conduct elections in the near future to choose a new patriarch."