Patriarch Irenaios

Irenaios Skopelitis (born 17 April 1939) was the 140th patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem from 2000 to 2005, though the dismissal was disputed.

Irenaios was appointed locum tenens in 2000 and elected patriarch on 13 August 2001 in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. He was enthroned on 15 September 2001 as "Patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem and all Palestine, Syria, beyond the Jordan River, Cana of Galilee and Holy Zion" in the presence of senior church and secular dignitaries, including Archbishop Christodoulos of the Church of Greece and Metropolitan Nicholas of the Czech and Slovak Orthodox Church.


Irenaios was born on the island of Samos, Greece as Emmanouil Skopelitis, in April 1939, and came to Jerusalem in 1953.

He served for many years as Exarch of the Holy Sepulchre in Athens.

Controversy and dismissalEdit

A few years into Irenaios' patriarchate, he was accused of selling several parcels of church-owned land in the Old City of Jerusalem to Israeli developers.

As most of the Orthodox Christians in the area are Palestinian, and the land was in an Arab-populated area that most Palestinians hoped would become a part of a future Palestinian capital, these accusations caused a great deal of concern among Church members. On March 19, 2005, the Palestinian Authority formed a commission to investigate these allegations.

After a thorough investigation by the commission, the commission exonerated Patriarch Ireneos and concluded that the accusations made against him were "A very well calculated plan ... schemed by a number of clerics opposing Ireneos in collaboration with Israeli Extreme Right Wingers. Their interest converged in the aim of getting rid of Ireneos step by step." The report also concluded that "In accordance with the applicable law in East Jerusalem, Patriarch Ireneos is still the legitimate Patriarch enjoying full powers."[1]

Some Orthodox Church leaders in Jerusalem announced on May 5, 2005 in a letter that they had broken off contact (some called it boycotting) with Patriarch Irenaios, and regarded him as dismissed as patriarch of Jerusalem.

The decision reached by the Holy Synod of Jerusalem of the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre was made final on May 6, 2005 by a two-thirds vote of that body. As far as the Church leaders were concerned, Irenaios ceased to be patriarch from that point. On 24 May 2005 a special pan-Orthodox Conference was convened in Constantinople (Istanbul) to review the decisions of the Holy Synod of Jerusalem. The pan-Orthodox Conference under the presidency of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew voted overwhelmingly to confirm the decision of the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulcher and to strike Irenaios' name from the diptychs. On 30 May, the Synod of Jerusalem chose Metropolitan Cornelius of Petra to serve as locum tenens pending the election of a replacement for Irenaios.

The Holy Synod of Jerusalem went further. On June 16, 2005 it announced that Irenaios had been demoted to the rank of monk.[2] This action is now widely viewed as being uncanonical. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has also said the defrocking does not have any validity, and is not recognized by any Orthodox Church. Since then Irenaios has not left his apartment and is allegedly, imprisoned there.[3]

Theophilos III was elected as the new patriarch on 22 August 2005 by the Synod. The election was confirmed by the pan-Orthodox Synod of Istanbul (Constantinople) and he was enthroned on 22 November 2005.

By a longstanding tradition, the dismissal of a patriarch of Jerusalem and the election of a replacement requires the approval or recognition of the governments in the regions of the patriarchate's authority - presently, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and Jordan. Jordan had recognized the dismissal by June 2005. Ireneos continued to be recognized by Israel as the Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem until December 2007, and Israel continued to invite him to official government functions. As of 20 December 2007, the governments of Jordan and the Palestinian Authority and Israel all now recognise Theophilos III as the Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem.[4]

Post dismissalEdit

After his dismissal, Irenaios took up residence in a small apartment on the top floor of the building of the patriarchate. From that time until 2015, Irenaios did not leave this apartment, claiming he was imprisoned there by Theophilos III, a claim the new Patriarch denied.[5] He lived in seclusion from 16 February 2008, receiving food from his supporters via a basket tied to a rope lowered down from his apartment to the surrounding streets. Suffering from pulmonary disease, he left the building for the first time in November 2015, for surgery. In what was interpreted as a possible sign of reconciliation, Irenaios was visited by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople on March 22, 2017.[6] However, in a letter described as “emotional”, to the Greek Consulate in Jerusalem, Irenaios continued to maintain he was living in a state of de facto imprisonment due to his deteriorating health and the fact his Greek passport had been stolen by those loyal to the new Patriarch who, following his most recent round of surgery, was attempting to have him confined to a remote monastery, where due to his health he'd be unlikely to survive. Theophilos also denied these accusations, instead maintaining Irenaios was being sent to a monastery near Jericho, away from the city, so he could recuperate. With his health continuing to suffer, Irenaios was granted assistance from the Greek government. In August 2019, he arrived in a wheel chair at Ben-Gurion International Airport and boarded a flight to Athens. Irenaios’ departure concluded the conflict over his status in Jerusalem.[7]


  1. ^ The Palestinian Commission Report: The Palestinian Commission To probe the facts and realities of the so-called Baab Al-Khalil and the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate
  2. ^ BBC News: Orthodox leader demoted to monk
  3. ^ "Ousted patriarch behind locked doors in Jerusalem"
  4. ^ Jerusalem Post: Court freezes recognition of Greek Patriarch Archived 2011-09-17 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "Ousted patriarch behind locked doors in Jerusalem"
  6. ^ "ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH VISITS DEPOSED PATRIARCH IRENAIOS OF JERUSALEM". Orthodox Christianity. Moscow. 23 March 2017. Retrieved 2018-11-01.
  7. ^ Hasson, Nir, “Ousted Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Finally Gets to Go Home Irenaeus I, who reportedly sold strategic church properties to a Jewish settler group, accused the church of preventing him from returning to Greece after he fell seriously ill“, Haaretz. Published August 28, 2019. Retrieved January 4, 2021.

External linksEdit

Preceded by
Eastern Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem
Succeeded by