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WCC urges Israel to recognize Theophilus III as head of the Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem

WCC urges Israel to recognize Theophilus III as head of the Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem

Patriarch Theophilus III with Kobia during the former's May 2006 visit to the WCC

03 October 2006

"The World Council of Churches (WCC) calls for the prompt and unqualified recognition of His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilus III as the primate of the Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem by the Government of Israel," said WCC general secretary, Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia in a letter sent to Israel's prime minister Ehud Olmert on 29 September.

Under long-standing agreements, the election of the patriarch of Jerusalem, the oldest and largest church in the Holy Land, is endorsed by the Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian authorities. The Israeli authorities have, however, refused to validate the August 2005 election of the leader of the WCC's largest member church in the Holy Land, and have thus prevented the church from fulfilling its regular functions.

Qualifying this refusal as an "unjustified delay", the WCC general secretary also objected to Israel's continued recognition of the "duly deposed" former patriarch Irineos which, he stated, was "in contravention of the actions of the legitimate religious representatives" of the church in Jerusalem.

The WCC central committee meeting in September 2006 requested the general secretary to intervene with the Israeli government on this issue.

"I would end this letter with the observation that meaningful and appropriate demonstrations of respect for religion do honour to those in positions of power in every place. Nowhere is this more the case than in the divided city of Jerusalem and among communities around the world that look to it in faith and hope," concluded Kobia.

Full text of the letter sent to Israel's prime minister

WCC press release on the visit of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem to the WCC in May 2006