Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Israel's Supreme Court Approves Disputed Sales of Greek Orthodox Church Properties

Jerusalem Post and AFP report on a decision of the Israeli Supreme Court on Monday approving the 2004 sale (or in one case, the 99-year lease) by the Greek Orthodox Church of three properties in the Old City of Jerusalem to the Jewish organization Ateret Cohanim. The goal of Ateret Cohanim is to extend Jewish ownership over property in East Jerusalem by purchasing Palestinian-owned property through front companies. Ateret Cohanim paid over $1.8 million for the properties.  The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate claims that the sales were made by its director of finance, Nicholas Papadimas, without proper authorization. It also claimed that Papadimas was bribed to advance the sales. Disclosure of the sales led to the Church's dismissal of Patriarch Irineos I and his replacement by Patriarch Theophilos III. The 3-judge panel of the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's decision upholding the legality of the sales.