14 June, 2007
The Jordanian government on Wednesday officially announced that it has reversed its decision to withdraw recognition from Jerusalem Patriarch Theophilos III, following a meeting between Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and Jordanian Foreign Affairs Minister Abdelelah Al-Khatib. The decision to once again recognise Theophilos as Patriarch was made by the Jordanian cabinet on Tuesday.
"This is an extremely positive development. We welcome it with the certainty that the Jerusalem Patriarchate will continue to fulfill without obstacles its so very important mission and good work for all its congregation," Bakoyannis said in a statement to the ANA-MPA after the one-hour meeting, noting that Al Khatib had briefed her on the Jordanian cabinet's decision in detail.
During joint statements by the two ministers, Al Khatib referred to a "new start" in relations between Jordan and the Jerusalem Patriarchate.
Bakoyannis said that Greece and Jordan had agreed to support the ancient institution of the Jerusalem Patriarchate and its self-governing status, and that the Patriarchate must meet the needs of all its congregation.
"We will continue together with the Jordanian government to preserve the Greek-Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the rights of its Jordanian members," she said.
Al Khatib gave assurances that Jordan would protect the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate and the rights of its Jordanian members.
"It is an important Patriarchate. We respect its independence and we are interested in the way its operates. We want to protect the property of the Church and to look after the Jordanian community that belongs to that Church," he stressed.
He said the Patriarchate had sent letters to Jordan's Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit that briefed the premier on the decisions made by the Holy Synod on Monday.
"It was a positive development that helped us and the Greek government to close this chapter," the minister underlined.
In a statement on Tuesday night, Jordanian government spokesman Nasser Judeh said that his government was satisfied with the letters sent by the Patriarch and the Patriarchate's Holy Synod saying that no Church land had been sold under Theophilos, adding that he had "honoured all the commitments he undertook when he was appointed as patriarch in 2005".
In the letters, Theophilos said that no concessions of Church property had been made during his tenure and that he would continue to protect the Patriarchate's property against every illegal land concession.
On her arrival in Jerusalem during a tour of the Middle East, the Greek foreign minister had intensive talks with both the Patriarch and her Jordanian counterpart.
Theophilos III replaced Irineos I, who was ousted in May 2005 over claims that he had approved the unsanctioned sale of church property to Jewish investors - an act that is barred under Israel's peace agreement with Jordan in 1994.
On May 12 this year, the Jordanian government revoked recognition of Theophilos after receiving what it said was "documented evidence" that he was involved in transactions to sell or lease church property in Jerusalem.
Talks between Bakoyannis and Jordan's leadership, including the Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit, also focused on the situation in the Middle East.
"The Greek and European effort is to support the resumption of peace talks and every initiative that will lead to peace in the region. Greece is the European Union country nearest to the Middle East and within the European Council it plays a special role in EU efforts toward peace-making," she said.
Jordanian's foreign minister, meanwhile, expressed his country's appreciation for Greece's involvement and determination to contribute to peacemaking and an improvement of the condition of Palestinians. He stressed that he also looked to continued cooperation with his Greek counterpart in order to improve Greek-Jordanian relations.
The positive developments over the issue of the Patriarchate were "an indication of the strength of ties between the two countries," he added.
Bakoyannis is due to depart on Wednesday night for Beirut, the last stop on her tour of the Middle East, where she will meet with the political leadership of the country, conveying a message of support from the Greek government to that of Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora and for Lebanon's territorial integrity and stability.
Source: Athens News Agency