An Israeli court ordered the Greek Orthodox Church to pay a total of 2.9 million dollars in fees owed to a local lawyer. The sum will cover the costs of cases dating back to 2002.
Israeli lawyer Moshe Lipke claimed that the Church owed him 11.3 million shekels for representing the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem in property transactions as well as in a stormy dispute with former Patriarch Irineos. The Tel Aviv District Court ruled in his favor after Tuesday’s trial.
According to local news, the oldest bill issued by the lawyer for services provided to the Greek Orthodox Church, dated back to November 2002 and was related to legal work concerning a luxury apartment in Jaffa, Israel. The most recent dated back to 2005 and was related to Irineos’ removal.
After Irineos’ dismissal from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, Theophilos III was elected as incumbent patriarch in August 2005. Irineos was dismissed due to his involvement in a multi-million-dollar deal with Jewish investors who bought part of the church’s land in a mainly Palestinian area of Israeli-occupied east Jerusalem.
At the moment, the Greek Orthodox Church is the largest and wealthiest Christian Church in the Holy Land. The number of Orthodox Christians in the Holy Land is estimated at about 500,000. The Church’s hierarchy is dominated by Greek clergy, which in effect excludes the Arab majority from the Church’s upper ranks. This has been a point of endless contention between Greeks in the patriarchate, who are backed in this regard by the Greek government and the Turkey-based Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.