JERUSALEM -- The Greek Orthodox Church in the Holy Land elected a new patriarch yesterday to succeed its ousted leader, who fell from grace in a controversial East Jerusalem land deal.
Metropolitan Theofilos was elected by the church's Holy Synod in a 14-to-0 vote.
Church rebels had dismissed Patriarch Irineos I earlier this year for leasing prime property in East Jerusalem to groups interested in expanding the Jewish presence. The long-term leases enraged the predominantly Palestinian flock, which claims East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.
World Orthodox leaders stopped recognizing Irineos's authority in May, but he continued to resist demands to step aside, saying a former aide signed the leases without his knowledge. Irineos wasn't immediately available for comment yesterday on the election of his successor.
Atallah Hana, a senior cleric at the Jerusalem church, said Theofilos ''vowed yesterday and today before the synod and the religious men of the church to return all the properties that were leased to Israelis."
Greek media have reported that Theofilos, the metropolitan of Tabor in Galilee, had served previously as a Greek Orthodox Church envoy in Qatar. He reportedly has close ties to the Greek Orthodox leadership in the United States.
Under church law, patriarchs must be approved by the three governments under whose jurisdiction the church's flock lives. The Palestinian National Authority and Jordan recognized Irineos's dismissal, but Israel has not.
Israeli officials said they had not yet adopted a position regarding the election of Theofilos. Israel previously said it would not work with Irineos's replacement.