Theophilos III was sworn in as the Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem, in a ceremony at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre yesterday. The Patriarch is the religious leader of 100,000 Christians in the Holy Land. The he Israeli government has not yet recognised him as patriarch, and is actively supporting his predecessor Irineos I. Irineos I was demoted to a monk after being accused of selling church land in East Jerusalem to Jewish investors. The Palestinian Authority and Jordan have backed the church's decision, but earlier this month Israel's minister in charge of Jerusalem affairs Tzachi Hanegbi, earlier this month warned the patriarchate not to inaugurate Theophilos III. "The state objects to holding this ceremony, which is intended to validate the removal of Patriarch Irineos, a move that has not been recognised by the State of Israel, as is required by law," he said in a letter obtained by Israeli newspaper Haaretz. Mr Hanegbi said that his government planned to appoint a committee to deal with the matter and that Theophilos would only be able to claim the patriarchate after it had made its decision. In a statement the patriarchate replied: "With all due respect, the Patriarch, the Synod and the Patriarchate find your letter surprising and unacceptable since it constitutes an outright and inappropriate interference in their autonomy as a religious sect and in the religious freedom of members of the Greek Orthodox congregation," it said. Theophilos III, originally from Messini in Greece, served previously as Archbishop of Tabor in the Czech Republic.
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