The latest twist in the ongoing scandal, which has resurrected a bitter split within the Greek Orthodox community in the Holy Land, came as the Greek Patriarch Irineos I denied any involvement in the alleged land sale in Jerusalem's Old City.

  

In a special session in Ram Allah to discuss the crisis, the Palestinian parliament on Tuesday passed a resolution urging the Palestinian Authority to no longer recognise the authority of the Greek Orthodox patriarchy over the Orthodox Arab community.

  

The resolution calls on the Palestinian leadership "not to recognise the patriarch", and "to work through legal means for the Arabisation of the Orthodox church" in the occupied Palestinian territories.

 

Formal denial 

  

Denials issued by Greek Patriarch Irineos I in Jerusalem fell on deaf ears.

  

"I formally and categorically deny any personal implication, or implication of the patriarchy in this alleged transaction, the details of which we know nothing," Irineos I said in a statement four days after the scandal broke.

 

Palestinian MPs were unmoved
by the Greek patriarch's denials

Christian MPs could not be less impressed.

  

"We must separate the Palestinian Orthodox Church from the Greek Orthodox Church," said MP Hanan Ashrawi during the debate. "We must solve this crisis by making the church into an Arab church."

  

The whirlwind of speculation and rumour around the alleged sale sparked religious tensions in Jerusalem over the weekend and revived a long-running dispute between the Palestinian and Greek Orthodox churches.

 

Removal move

  

The Palestinian Legislative Council also decided to form a committee which will discuss "a mechanism for Arabising the Orthodox church in Palestine".

  

Ghazi Hanania, another Christian deputy who will chair the committee, said the Orthodox community demanded that the patriarch be removed.

  

"All Palestinian Orthodox demand the removal of the patriarch but we will examine what the Greek (investigation) committee will do"

Ghazi Hanania,
Christian lawmaker

"All Palestinian Orthodox demand the removal of the patriarch but we will examine what the Greek (investigation) committee will do," he said, referring to a team of five Greek experts sent by Athens to investigate the incident.

  

Purchasing property in the Old City, which is in occupied and annexed east Jerusalem, is fraught with political tensions as Jewish groups often try to obtain properties in Palestinian areas in a major settlement drive.

  

The Palestinian Authority has itself set up a seven-member parliamentary committee to urgently investigate the reported sale.

  

Irineos I said he was "totally ready to cooperate with any commission (of inquiry) set up by the Palestinian Authority or the Jordanian or Greek governments, as well any internal Greek Orthodox inquiry to know the truth".

  

The controversy erupted on Friday after an Israeli paper reported that foreign Jewish investors had paid millions of dollars for two large properties at Jaffa Gate, the main entrance to the Old City, in a secret deal with the Greek Church.