Letter to his Eminence Metropolitan Cornelios of Petra, Locum Tenens of the GreekOrthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem
WCC General Secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia

 Your Eminence,

Warm ecumenical greetings from the World Council of Churches in Geneva.

Thank you for your letter of July 15 to Rev. Christopher Ferguson. He haspassed on the letter to us and he has kept us informed of the crisis that has confrontedthe Patriarchate in these past months.

We have kept the Patriarchate and all faithful of your Church in Jerusalem andthe Holy Land in our thoughts and prayers during this period of travail. We appreciatethat the Holy Synod and the Brotherhood have attempted to address the crisiswithin the framework of ecclesiastical law and thus worked to avoid schismand promote the unity of the church even in the face of division and conflict. Tothis end the Patriarchate submitted their actions to the Pan-Orthodox Synodwhich ratified your actions.

When the State of Israel refused to recognize Irineos I as Patriarch in the yearsfollowing his election, the World Council of Churches called on Israel to respectthe integrity, authority and freedom of the church to choose its own leadershipand to govern church affairs without the interference of the state. Once again wefind that the State of Israel is violating this basic principle by continuing to recognizeMr Irineos as Patriarch in spite of your Church’s decision to dismiss him.

We note that the Governments of Jordan and the Palestinian National Authorityhave withdrawn their recognition of Mr Irineos Skopelitis.

Your Eminence, please be assured that the World Council of Churches standsfirmly with the Patriarchate in rejecting this unwarranted interference with thefreedom of the Church to choose her own leadership. We will raise this matterdirectly with representatives of the State of Israel and all the governments concernedin keeping with the principles we expressed previously.

We are equally concerned that the Israel police and security forces have violatedthe sanctuary of the Monastery of the Patriarchate. In keeping with the principlestated above it is up to the Church to decide who has authority within herinstitutions, churches and monasteries. The State has no right even under the pretextof an invitation by a leader who has been dismissed by the ecclesiasticalauthorities to violate the sanctity and sanctuary of the Monastery. We will raisethis matter with the Israeli authorities calling on them to respect the leadershipof the church and the sanctity and sanctuary of churches, Holy Places and monasteries.

Your Eminence, in responding to these two difficult matters we are aware thatthe current crisis confronting the Patriarchate is even more complex and toucheson other areas of historic significance. We take this opportunity to express ourconcern over the transfer of property in Jaffa Gate knowing that this land dealhas deep consequences on various levels – for the status quo of Jerusalem, for relationshipbetween Christians and Muslims, for the whole Christian community,and for the relationship between the Patriarchate and the Arab Palestinian faithful.

It also raises fresh concern for a just peace in the Israel-Palestine conflict.We have been informed of the appointment of advocates charged with annullingthe land deal and securing the property. We are of course aware of the many pressingissues facing the Patriarchate including the up-coming patriarchal elections.

Given the gravity and urgency of the situation, we would be remiss if we did notpledge our help for immediate action to annul the land deal and secure the statusquo and the future of the Holy City of Jerusalem.

We would also like to extend our hope and encouragement to you, the HolySynod, the Brotherhood and all the faithful so that God might use this crisis asan occasion for transformation and renewal for the “Living Stones” of the HolyLand and so that the Palestinian Christian community may flourish and prosperwith all God’s beloved servants. May the Patriarchate, by God’s grace, emergefrom this crisis with new strength and vision.Your Eminence, in closing allow me to reiterate the concern and prayers of theWorld Council of Churches for the well-being of the Church and the unity towhich it is called. The Greek Patriarchate of Jerusalem can count on our solidarityand support.

Peace and Grace to you. Truly yours in our Lordand Saviour Jesus Christ,

Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia– GeneralSecretary WCC