Patriarch Irenaios

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Irenaios Skopelitis (born 17 April 1939) was the 140th patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem from 2001 to 2005, though the dismissal was disputed. As Patriarch, he was styled Patriarch Irenaios or Irenaios I.

Irenaios was elected patriarch on 13 August 2001 in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and enthroned on 15 September 2001 as "Patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem and all Palestine, Syria, beyond the Jordan River, Cana of Galilee and Holy Zion" in the presence of senior church and secular dignitaries, including Archbishop Christodoulos of the Church of Greece and Metropolitan Nicholas of the Czech and Slovak Orthodox Church.

Biography[edit]

Irenaios was born on the island of Samos, Greece as Emmanouil Skopelitis, in April 1939, and came to Jerusalem in 1953.

He served for many years as Exarch of the Holy Sepulchre in Athens.

Controversy and dismissal[edit]

A few years into Irenaios' patriarchate, he was accused of selling several parcels of church-owned land in the Old City of Jerusalem to Israeli developers.

As most of the Orthodox Christians in the region are Palestinian, and the land was in an Arab-populated area that most Palestinians hoped would become as a part of a future Palestinian capital, these accusations caused a great deal of concern among Church members. On March 19, 2005, the Palestinian Authority formed a commission to investigate these allegations.

After a thorough investigation by the commission, the commission exonerated Patriarch Ireneos and concluded that the accusations made against him were "A very well calculated plan . . . schemed by a number of clerics opposing Ireneos in collaboration with Israeli Extreme Right Wingers. Their interest converged in the aim of getting rid of Ireneos step by step." The report also concluded that "In accordance with the applicable law in East Jerusalem, Patriarch Ireneos is still the legitimate Patriarch enjoying full powers."[1]

Before the publication of the commission report, some Orthodox Church leaders in Jerusalem announced on May 5, 2005 in a letter that they had broken off contact (some called it boycotting) with Patriarch Irenaios, and regarded him as dismissed as Patriarch of Jerusalem.

The decision reached by the Holy Synod of Jerusalem of the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre was made final on May 6, 2005 by a two-thirds vote of that body. As far as the Church leaders were concerned, Irenaios ceased to be Patriarch from that point. On 24 May 2005 a special pan-Orthodox Conference, was convened in Constantinople (Istanbul) to review the decisions of the Holy Synod of Jerusalem. The pan-Orthodox Conference under the presidency of the Ecumenical Patriarch voted overwhelmingly to confirm the decision of the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulcher and to strike Irenaios' name from the diptychs, On 30 May, the Synod of Jerusalem chose Metropolitan Cornelius of Petra to serve as locum tenens pending the election of a replacement for Irenaios.

The Holy Synod of Jerusalem went further. On June 16, 2005 it announced that Irenaios had been demoted to the rank of monk.[2] This action is now widely viewed as being uncanonical. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has also said the defrocking does not have any validity, and is not recognized by any Orthodox Church. Since then Irenaios has not left his apartment and is de facto imprisoned there.[3]

Theophilos III was elected as the new Patriarch on 22 August 2005 by the Synod. The election was confirmed by the pan-Orthodox Synod of Istanbul (Constantinople) and he was enthroned on 22 November 2005.

By a longstanding tradition, the dismissal of a Patriarch of Jerusalem and the election of a replacement requires the approval or recognition of the governments in the regions of the Patriarchate's authority - presently, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and Jordan. Jordan had recognized the dismissal by June 2005. Ireneos continued to be recognized by Israel as the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem until December 2007, and Israel continued to invite him to official government functions. As of 20 December 2007, the governments of Jordan and the Palestinian Authority and Israel all now recognise Theophilos III as Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem.[4]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Diodoros
Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem
2001–2005
Succeeded by
Theophilos III