Greek Orthodox Church picks new Patriarch
by Yoav Appel
The Associated Press
AUGUST 14, 2001 (Jerusalem) — The Greek Orthodox Church today electeed Eireneos I, a 62-year-old bishop, as its new patriarch in the Holy Land. Eireneos I, born on the Greek island of Samos, was elected in two rounds of voting. In Monday's final round, he was chosen by 17 bishops who cast their votes inside Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulcher, built over the site where tradition says Jesus was crucified and buried.
The church did not say how many votes Eireneos won.
Israel last week withdrew its objections to five of the candidates to replace Patriarch Diodoros I, who died December 20. Eireneos I was among those who Israel sought to disqualify.
Eireneos I came to Jerusalem in 1953, and graduated from the church's theological seminary in 1963.
He represented the Jerusalem church in Athens in 1972 before returning to the Holy Land nine years later to become a bishop and a member of the Synod.
In a speech following his election, Eireneos I thanked the priests and sent special regards to King Abdullah of Jordan and to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
"I will serve the church and I support the Palestinian people and their just issues," he said in a statement.
The church is to ask Jordan and the Palestinian Authority for their approval of the new patriarch. The statement did not mention whether the church would seek approval from Israel.
The Rev. Christos Pizanty said that Eireneos I was meeting today afternoon with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Under a law dating back to Byzantine Emperor Justinian, who ruled in the 6th century, the government in the Holy Land has the right to approve or disqualify candidates for the office of patriarch. The list of candidates was submitted to the governments of Israel and Jordan, as well as the Palestinian Authority.
According to church officials, there are about 100,000 Greek Orthodox faithful in the Holy Land.