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Orthodox leaders act on peer Halt recognition of a patriarch

ISTANBUL -- World Orthodox leaders voted yesterday to stop recognizing the patriarch of Jerusalem, Irineos I, church officials said, asserting a rare unified position on the crisis facing the church in the Holy Land.

Representatives of 12 main Orthodox churches cast their votes during a rare ''pan-Orthodox" synod, presided over by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the Istanbul-based spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians.

Irineos has persistently refused to resign despite efforts by his own church members to depose him over explosive allegations that his church leased property to Jewish investors in east Jerusalem, which Palestinians consider their capital.

The vote doesn't directly call for his removal. But the act of refusing to recognize his authority is expected to put additional pressure on him to resign.

''We had to make a sad decision about the Jerusalem patriarch," Bartholomew said.

Irineos was asked to resign during the synod, but he refused, Bartholomew said.

The Istanbul proceedings are the first major pan-Orthodox summit in more than a decade. The gathering has no authority to formally dismiss Irineos or pick his successor. That duty rests solely with the synod, or governing council, of the Jerusalem church. Irineos refuses to convene the synod.

Cornelius, the Metropolitan of Petra, said the vote yesterday would boost efforts by church leaders in the Holy Land to remove the patriarch.

''He can call himself patriarch, but he is not," Cornelius said.

As Irineos was leaving the patriarchate, he was asked by reporters whether he would resign. He said nothing, but shook his finger back and forth as if to indicate no.

Irineos's attorney, Franciscos Ragoussis, signaled earlier yesterday that his client would continue to fight his ouster.

A former financial adviser to Irineos is accused of giving Jewish investors 198-year leases for two church-owned hostels and several shops in the Old City.

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