Chapter Two

Legislation at the Jerusalem Orthodox  Patriarchate and the Events of the Years 1873- 1897








         In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, five patriarchs were enthroned in the Jerusalem See. They were Procopios II, Ierotheos, Nikodemus, Grasimos and Damianos[1]. The most important event of this decade which characterized the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century was the issuance of the Jerusalem Patriarchate Law of 1875, “which was viewed as the basic constitution of this Church until 1958.”[2] Differences arose between the Arabs and the Greeks over the application, interpretation and attempts to amend this law. The measures taken to apply, interpret and amend this law constituted the main events of this decade.

Before 1875, there was no special law or legislation governing the functions of the Jerusalem Patriarchate. The Patriarchate was run in accordance with the overall ecclesiastical laws issued by the Church synods and the customs observed by the other Orthodox patriarchates. The 1875 law is not the fruit of the development of the general laws followed in all the patriarchates, although it derived some of its provisions from these laws, but was imposed by the ecclesiastical-political events, which were referred to in the previous chapter. “With a view to stabilizing the situation and in order to forestall Russian interference, the Regulations of 1875 were hurriedly drawn up in that year.”[3]

1-Patriarch Procopios II 1873-1875:

Procopios was elected patriarch only a few days after the deposing of Kyrillos. The Ottomans confirmed him in office by granting him the high Berat -letter of designation- one month after his enthronement. This period is relatively short, and the intention was to forestall Russian intervention. The Russians and the Arabs did not recognize Procopios as a legitimate patriarch. A book printed in Constantinople in 1873 expressing the Russian views which described the patriarch as “ignorant, trivial, fanatic and an infidel who was enthroned on the throne of St. James by the force of arms and who was dictated by the military on a community which did not want him, because it was truthful and loving to its legitimate patriarch.”[4] In another place, the book says: “Procopios, the successor of Kyrillos, was the product of a handful of monks, who were instigated by Ecumenical Patriarch Anthimos to act unfairly and repressively. Kyrillos, the legitimate Patriarch of Jerusalem was the symbol of the independence of the Patriarchate while Procopios was the symbol of its enslavement.”[5]

        The Arabs boycotted the elected patriarch and “seized many monasteries in Jerusalem and even stopped the prayers at the St. James church so as not to have any relations with the monks that were staying at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and in the Greek monastery.”[6] The nationalists dispatched a delegation to Istanbul that included Banayout al-Sawabini, Hanna Zakariya and Siman Mashbak[7] to protest against the deposing of Kyrillos and the appointment of Procopios. However, the delegation failed in its mission. According to Hopwood, Dr Jurji Sarruf led the Palestinian delegation. “Sarruf who had been dragoman to the Russian Mission in Jerusalem, had been dismissed by the Russians for failing to support Patriarch Kyrillos.”[8]

        In March 1873, the Russian Synod addressed a letter to Antonin Kapustin to work for the normalization of relations with the new patriarch. However, Ignatev, the Russian Ambassador in Istanbul, viewed this as treason to the cause of Kyrillos and a defeat of the Russian influence. So he abrogated the decision made by the Synod and ordered that its recommendations to Antonin be revoked. “Once again the State had shown itself to be the master of the Church in Palestine affairs and both Antonin and the Consul in Jerusalem continued to avoid formal relations with Prokopios who, throughout his reign, received no official recognition from Russia.”[9]

The Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulcher was anticipating that a law for the Patriarchate might be issued. Therefore, the Jerusalem Synod, which consisted of the monks of the Brotherhood, prepared a draft law of 11 articles in the transitional period between Kyrillos and Procopios. The Brotherhood swore to endorse it before his election. The law strips the patriarch of most of his powers. The Russians and the Arabs rejected it, and Istanbul did not endorse it. Thus the draft law was killed before it was born.[10]

        The Arabs continued their boycott of the Patriarchate supported by Yusefovich, the new Russian Consul, who was transferred temporarily by Ignatev from the Russian Consulate in Damascus to replace Consul Kozhevnikov. The Arabs insisted on the formation of a mixed council of clergy and laity that should be given a role in the election of the patriarch and bishops and in watching the finances of the Patriarchate. The Arabs also demanded that they be allowed to join the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulcher, payment of regular salaries to the priests, and opening schools for the Orthodox community. These demands were conveyed by a delegation of nationalists to Istanbul.

        The Greeks in Jerusalem were on the verge of bankruptcy because the Russian government seized the Awqaf of the Patriarchate. The Russians insisted on two conditions. The first condition was that Kyrillos be reinstated in the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulcher, which would enable him to return to his patriarchal office. The second condition was the resignation of Procopios and the issuance of a law for the Patriarchate guaranteeing the rights of the Arabs. Ignatev expressed his willingness to review the issue of the funds of the Patriarchate that were frozen by the Russian banks until his conditions would be met. Thus, the four parties, i.e. Greeks, Russians, Arabs and Turks, agreed to resolve the patriarchal crisis. Therefore, the basic law of the Patriarchate was issued on 13 March 1875. Procopios resigned and retired until he died, a bishop was appointed a patriarchal administrator of the Patriarchate until the election of the new patriarch.

2-The basic law of the Patriarchate of 1875[11]:

         The Patriarchate law consisted of four chapters and of seventeen articles: the first chapter concerns the duties of the patriarch and of the Holy Synod in attendance, and includes articles 1 to 3. The second chapter concerns the election of the patriarch, and includes articles 4 to 11. The third chapter concerns the qualifications requisite for the person elected to be patriarch, and includes articles 12-14. The fourth chapter concerns the qualifications required for monks entitled to be bishop, and the mode of their election, and includes articles 15 to 17.

About the author of the law, it was said that the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulcher made the draft, reviewed it, and submitted it to the Sublime Porte, which revised it and summed it up into 17 articles.[12] Others say that the Sublime Porte drafted and imposed the law.[13] However, the Bertram and Young report asserted that the text of the law was not attributed to any particular party, but it points out that “the regulations of 1875 were hurriedly drawn up.”[14] The original version of the law was in Turkish. The law was known by the Turkish name ‘Nizamat’ which means law. This law was the basic legal document for the regulation of the Patriarchate between 1875 and 1958, though there was a controversy over the interpretation of some of its phrases and expressions. For example, the word ‘roum’ which is stated in the Turkish version means, according to the Greek writer Moschopoulos, Greek or ‘Grec’ in French. Moschopoulos criticizes George Young for dropping the word ‘Grec’ in his French translation of the law. The word ‘Greek’ for the Greek writer means the Greek people, or the Greek race.[15]

The Arabic translation uses the word ‘Roum’ in its general meaning of ‘Orthodox’ not ‘Greeks’. The text of the law contained in Qazaqya’s book was translated from Greek.[16] The English text of the law in this book is taken from the Bertram and Luke report, and was translated from the Turkish, as the report itself says: “ This translation from the Turkish text was kindly prepared to us by Mr. Ongley, who at our request had adhered as strictly as possible to the letter of the original”[17] The particular of Bertram and Luke text is that the word ‘Roman’ is used instead of the usual expression ‘Greek’ or ‘Roum’.




Chapter I

Concerning the Duties of the Patriarch and of the Holy Synod in Attendance


1. The ‘Roman’ Patriarch of' Jerusalem is the President and Superintendent of the Churches and Monasteries, and of the Metropolitans, Bishops, Monks, and Priests subject to his Patriarchal throne, as well as of all the shrines belonging to the  ‘Roman’  community within the circle of his Patriarchal office in the Holy Sepulcher, both independently and in partnership with other communities, and being the Director of the Schools and Hospitals attached to the said Monasteries his duties are, as far as possible with the knowledge of the Monks in attendance who are present, to devote his attention to the carrying out at the appointed times of the ancient religious customs which are in force ab antiquo in the Holy Sepulcher and other shrines, to see to the poor of the community in accordance with the limits of the revenue of the Churches and Monasteries, as well as the good administration of the Hospital and the existing schools.

2. In the event of any application from the public concerning matters of their religion and spiritual advice, or from the Spiritual Chiefs concerning their religious duties, the Patriarch will assemble the Synod under his presi­dency and it will elucidate and arrange the matter either by agreement or by a majority of votes.

3. The Holy Synod is composed of six Bishops and nine Archimandrites, and in such a manner that the permanent body of its members shall not be alerted, the changing, withdrawal, and addition, according to necessity, is referred to the spiritual advice of the Patriarch. The Synod shall meet always under the presidency of the Patriarch, it will discuss the administrative matters concerning the spiritual objects of shrines, churches, and monasteries; the nature of the offices and spiritual duties of the Monks and servants appointed and attached to these; the procedure, such as the hiring, leasing, aliena­tion, inheritance, purchase, and sale of charitable objects, and likewise, as the question arising out of these will be settled in the Nizam and Sheri Courts in accordance with their special laws, the increased development of the revenues of these; the benefit of the poor of the community; and other spiritual matters. The resolutions and decisions of the Synod will be carried out by the Patriarch. In the event of a valid excuse, such as the illness or absence  of the Patriarch, the Metropolitan, or Bishop, or Archi­mandrite appointed by him will sit in his place.


Chapter II

Concerning the Election of the Patriarch


4. In the event of a vacancy occurring in the Patri­archal throne of Jerusalem the Synod will assemble and elect a person combining the desired qualifications from among the Metropolitans and Bishops in Jerusalem to be locum tenens, or submit to the Mutessarif a Mazbuta notify­ing the vacancy and the locum tenens. The matter will then be submitted at once, either by letter or by telegram, as may be necessary, to the high office of the Grand Vizierate by the Mutessarif, and action will be taken in accordance with the telegram and Emirnamé which will be sent in reply ordering the confirmation in his office of the locum tenens and the election of a Patriarch in accordance with the law.

5. After the provisions of the last preceding Article have been carried out, letters will be written by the locum tenens to the Metropolitans and Bishops who are resident and subject to the Patriarchal throne informing them that the Metropolitans and Bishops should be in Jerusalem within twenty-one days at the latest for the election of' a Patriarch, and he should specially notify the people that a married Priest from each Metropolis and Bishopric should come within the specified time in order to be present on behalf of' the people at the Council of Election.

6. At the expiration of the said period, when the invited are collected in a monastery in Jerusalem, he will assemble the said Spiritual Council comprising all the Metro­politans and Bishops, and each one will write on a separate paper the names of the persons whom they know to be worthy of the Patriarchate from among the ranks of the Metropolitans, Bishops, and Archimandrites subject to this Patriarchal throne, whether they are in Jerusalem or outside, and sign and give it to the locum tenens.

7. Without considering who has more or less votes among these persons, all will be considered as equally eligible for election and the names will be entered in a register in the presence of the Council, and the end will be signed by the locum tenens and the members of the Council.

8. The person to be Patriarch being according to the Church its spiritual head, the register of those who are eligible for election to be made as stated in the preceding Article will be sent to the Mutessarif, who will immediately communicate to the Sublime Porte, by letter or by telegram, the names of those who are entered in the register, and in case any of them are excised by the Government they will be withdrawn by the Sublime Porte and the order received in reply for the election to be carried out from among the others will be notified to the locum tenens  and the Synod by the Mutessarif.

9.When the order of the Sublime Porte has been communicated by the Mutessarif as has been explained in the preceding Article, a general council will be assembled, consisting of the Synod, the Archimandrites, and the Protosynkelloi of the Jerusalem monastery, and the native Priests who have been invited and come from outside, together with two native Priests, similar to those elected by the Christian inhabitants of Jerusalem itself, and it will proceed with the carrying out of the customary election in accordance with the order, so that three persons of those nominated for election will, by a majority of votes gained by secret voting by the Monks and invited Priests, that is to say by the whole Council present, be appointed candidates. When these three candidates have been appointed the monastic members of the Council will proceed to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, together with the paper bearing their names, and in the presence of the other members of the Church, the religious rules of the Church will be carried out, and one of the three nominated candidates will be elected by a majority of votes to be Patriarch by secret votes on the part of the clerical body of the Synod in accordance with the official rules customary to be carried out ab antiquo. In the event of an equality of votes, the matter will be settled by the advice of the locum tenens.

10. Those of the Metropolitans and Bishops who are invited to be present at the elective council who come and are unable to be present will be subject to the general vote, and each one of those who are present at the elective council, whether he be a monk or a priest, will be entitled to give only one vote.

11. As soon as the election has been carried out as afore­mentioned, a report will be prepared according to ancient custom and presented to the office of the Grand vizierate through the Mutessarif, and when the high Berat ordering the acceptance and appointment of the person elected arrives, the local Patriarchate will notify and carry it out.


Chaprter III

Concerning the Qualifications required to be possessed by the Person elected to be Patriarch


12. The person to be elected to be Patriarch is required to be more than forty years of age; to be of the body of monks having the rank of Bishop or Archimandrite, to have served for ten successive years with ability and without any default in a metropolis; and he and his father at least to be subjects of His Imperial Majesty.

13. The manners and character of the person to be Patriarch must be free from evil reputation; besides its being necessary that it should be proved and known from his antecedents that he has as far as possible literary and scientific knowledge; a perfect acquaintance of the laws and procedure of the Church; and that he is subject to the doctrines of his sect and the works of his religion, it is necessary for the religious works of the Church that he being the Patriarch of the Holy Sepulcher and its dependents and Bishop of Jerusalem itself, should be the religious father of all the churches and monasteries of which he is President, and able to protect at all times and in all circumstances the Orthodox and their religion.

14. As the person who is Patriarch, besides his pre­arranged religious duties, is the officer destined to carry out all the matters described in the exalted Berat which contains the privileges granted by the Caliph Omar El Farouk, may the blessing of God be upon him, confirmed by Fatih Sultan Mohammed, proclaimed and carried out by various of the past great Sultans, and repeated by the exalted Padishah, the person elected Patriarch, besides combining the qualifications mentioned in the preceding Article, must be worthy of entire trust by His Imperial Majesty, who will grant confirmation of the election, as well as have a knowledge of the Laws and Statutes of the exalted Government and be worthy of the trust and respect of the community.


Chapter IV

Concerning the Qualifications required by Monks entitled to be Bishops, and the Mode of their Election


15. It is required that the person who is elected and appointed to be Bishop should be:

1-        A subject of the Imperial Government in origin and that there should be no stain on him either from a Government or from a community point of view.

2-        Educated in the Patriarchate or Monastery of Jerusalem, and should be not be of the rank of Archimandrite or Protosynkellos he must at any rate be a zealous monk.

3-        Of mature age in accordance with the provisions of the laws of the Church and in his full senses, with a perfect knowledge of the work of the Church and a possessor of the desired experience in the good administration of a Bishopric.

4-Acquainted with the Arabic language and if possible the     Turkish language besides the Greek language.


16. As the election and appointment of a new Bishop to the vacant throne of a Bishop will be carried out by vote and appointment of the religious Council of the Synod with the permission sent by the Patriarch, the said Council will prepare a Register of the Monks who combine in their person the desired qualifications for a Bishop from among those who are possessors of equal proficiency, those who have given the most faithful services to the Church will be chosen, and out of these three persons will be appointed as candidates for the vacant Bishopric, and subsequently they will go to the church and carry out the rule in force and again by secret vote one from among the said three candidates will be finally elected and appointed and in any case of an equality of votes a majority of votes will be obtained by the vote of the Patriarch.

17. When a Bishop dies, after a letter signed by the notables, monks and leaders of the people of the town in which the deceased had his residence has been received, the formalities of the election will be commenced.

                             Dated 5 Sefer, 1292

                           1 March, 1291 (1875)

The nationalists found the law unfair to their rights. “It was no secret to any intelligent person that the official law was unfair to the rights of the citizens. First: in the election of the patriarch, the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulcher restricted the nominating session to the bishops and archbishops only and the local nationals did not participate in the session, but sat down speechless with no power to do or to say anything. Second: It designated the Synod as the body to elect the diocesan bishop and deprived the laity from participation in the election of their bishop who was supposed to be their shepherd and administer their spiritual needs. The only thing the laity was supposed to do was to submit a letter to the patriarch and to his Holy Synod stating that their bishop had died.”[19] Despite the reservations expressed by the nationalists over the law, it remained in their view and in the view of the Greeks and other concerned parties a basic constitutional document to which the concerned parties referred whenever differences erupted among them.

3-Patriarch Ierotheos 1875-1882:

Ierotheos was elected after the resignation of Procopios and the issuance of the law. “He served as the head of the Holy Sepulcher Monastery in Izmir. His election was legal because the nationalists participated in his election so as to protect their rights which were guaranteed by law and out of fear of the reprisal of the government which viewed loyalty to Patriarch Kyrillos, who was accused of being pro-Russian, as treason to it, all the more so because Russia was getting ready to wage war on Turkey at that time to secure the independence of the Balkans.”[20] Ierotheos had also re-registered the name of Patriarch Kyrillos at the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulcher.

The people were not convinced by the proclaimed law, because their demands were not fulfilled, “It appears from a document quoted below, that from the time of his elevation to the office of patriarch, the representatives of the local population addressed themselves to him and he had several conferences with them. The Sublime Porte and the Jerusalem Governorate received incessant complaints, and the local population prepared and sent to the Turkish Government a small pamphlet stating their grievances.”[21] To resolve the problem, the patriarch addressed a letter to the governor of Jerusalem on 6 November 1875, “which has always been regarded in the light of the grant of a Constitution and is known as a Katastatikon.[22] The document is an interpretation of the law and a reply to the demands of the people. Some people viewed it as an addition to article 6 of the law of 1875.[23] The following is the text of the Katastatikon:[24]

1-   In the first article, the Patriarch declares that the election of patriarchs and bishops would take place in accordance with the regulations of 1875, the Patriarch made the following definite promises.

2-   As regards those who desire to be enrolled in the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre we answer: It is known to you that according to the canons of our Church no distinction exists be­tween its children. In particular, our Monastery has never refused to allow natives of the country who so desire, to be enrolled in the Brotherhood, nor does it now impede them from so doing. So also in the future there shall be no impediment to the reception of those who observe the canons and the old rules in force in our Monastery; and each one of them, according to his capacity, and as he shows himself worthy, shall be promoted to all the hieratic degrees, up to the Holy Synod itself.


3-   As to your request that you should take part in the general discussions concerning the progress and enlightenment of the Orthodox people of the Jerusalem See, Our Humble Self has decided that there shall be established in Jerusalem a supreme supervising authority, com­posed of members of the Monastic clergy and of native priests and of lay Christians, whose care shall be the regulation of the schools of the See. This authority shall expend money for the neces­sities of these schools and for everything that is required for their administration. This supervising authority shall be under the presidency of myself, but there shall be excluded from its scope the Theological School of the Cross, as well as all philanthropic establishments, which shall be as always under my immediate supervision. And since the Theological School exists for the educa­tion of all Orthodox children, it is necessary that it should receive a sufficient number of the chil­dren of the Patriarchal See to be trained as capable teachers. And we permit this supervising authority to make provision for the condi­tion of the Orthodox poor and for their establish­ment and security.


4-   With regard to the bishops and their living in their dioceses we answer as follows: the bishops who have dioceses and in which there exists a flock of reasonable numbers, must travel at appropriate times and remain among their children, in order to visit them and to examine and minister to their spiritual needs and in order to fortify their progress; as indeed their duty de­mands.


5-   With regard to the improvement and the regulation of the schools of the country districts, there shall be elected and established a special supervising authority in each diocese under the presidency of the Hegoumenos for the time being, consisting of priests and laymen of that place. The jurisdiction of this authority shall extend all through the whole area subject to the Hegou­menos and shall be subject to the supreme supervising authority in Jerusalem.


6-   So also; as regards the churches of the various dioceses in the cities and in the villages generally, there shall be appointed a committee for each church by accord between the leaders of the people and the spiritual Superior who is stationed at the centre of each diocese for the management of its income and expenditure, except in the case of churches which are shrines.

About the issuance of the document of the Katastatikon, there is an amusing story, which is narrated by Qazaqya. He says that two teams were elected, one from the monks and one from the locals. The two teams met in a committee that reached a solution that was pleasing to the two sides. “This solution was published as a document that was in line with the desires of the nationalists and was sent to be printed for distribution to all the churches of the Jerusalem See.”[25] Here the nationalists claimed that the document that was agreed on was different from the document that was submitted to the governor of Jerusalem. They said that after the document was printed and distributed, the monks collected it from the hands of citizens and destroyed it. The patriarch then submitted to the government a revised version of the document consisting of the six articles of the Katastatikon.

Bertram does not mention the story of the revision and forgery, but praises the ideas that were contained in the Ierotheos document. However, half a century after these events, namely in 1925, he says: “The unfortunate thing about these declarations  is that they have not been carried out in a single particular.”[26]

In any case, the publication of Ierotheos document known as the Katastatikon worked like magic. It seemed that peace returned once again to the Jerusalem Patriarchate. On 13 December 1875, the Russian Consul, Kozhevnikov, who was returned to Jerusalem after being transferred to Damascus temporarily, wrote to Ignatev: “Yesterday the reconciliation of the Arabs and the patriarch took place in presence of the Governor.”[27]

A crisis that involved the Jerusalem Patriarchate caused the disruption of Russian financial aid, and the Awqaf revenues were frozen. The schools, the Monastery of the Cross, the hospital and the clinic were closed down. However, they were reopened in 1876 after the Tsar allowed the release of three fifths of the frozen funds of the Patriarchate from the revenues of Bessarabia; in 1881 the remaining funds from the Bessarabia Awqaf and the entire revenues of the Caucusus funds were released. Charity and Awqaf endowments flooded again to the Jerusalem See, and its schools and institutions returned to normal.

The influence of the Patriarch Ierotheos became stronger at the end of his rule. The monks were afraid that the over-all foregoing laws and developments were binding on them and harmful to their interests. Therefore, they enacted in 1882 a series of internal laws that were parallel to the patriarchal law consisting of 571 articles. “They endorsed the laws by themselves and each of them took the oath to apply the laws and to live according to them.”[28] On 11 June of the same year, the patriarch’s horse stumbled while en route to the monastery of the Cross, the patriarch fell down and stayed in bed until he died. As for the Brotherhood laws remained defective and useless.

4- Patriarch Nikodemus 1882-1890:

Phosios, the chief clerk of the Holy Synod, was elected after the death of Ierotheos in accordance with the 1875 law. He was a fierce enemy of the Russians. He was less than 40 years old, which was the legal age for a appointment of the patriarch. His election was received with opposition in Palestine and abroad. The Bishop of Bethlehem, Anthimos, objected to his election, “because of the competition and hatred he had with Phosios, who had earlier conspired against him, causing his exile to St. Savvas Monastery (Mar Saba). So he objected to his election as patriarch because he was not 40 years old as yet, which is the minimum age for occupying the post of patriarch according to the foregoing law. As for Phosios, he was only 38 years old. Thus the government ordered a reelection.”[29]

Nikodemus won the election and was enthroned Patriarch of Jerusalem. However, Grasimos, the Patriarch of Antioch and a member of the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulcher, continued to aspire for the head of the Jerusalem See. Meanwhile, Nikodemus burdened the Brotherhood’s budget with heavy debts despite the valuable aid he had received from Russia to expand on building projects.[30] Under this charged atmosphere between the Brotherhood and the patriarch, an attempt was made on his life by one of his monks. In April 1888, while he was consecrating the St. John church in the Jordan Valley, “Ghelikton opened fire on him and the bullet hit the back of his arm. He was wounded but he suffered no significant damage. The said monk was sentenced to prison, and he often blamed himself that he did not kill the patriarch.”[31] The Brotherhood closed the school of the Monastery of the Cross “on the pretext of difficult financial conditions,”[32] while the real goal was to hurt the patriarch, and this led to the deterioration of his health and to the intensification of his sharp temper.[33]  

In August 1890, the Holy Synod imposed on the patriarch to submit his resignation, accusing him that he was merely an obedient instrument in the hands of the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society and that he was working for the destruction of the independence of the Greek Orthodox Church and gradually handing over the holy shrines to the Russians. However, the resignation was not made through the familiar methods, but through a weird method, as Qazaqya narrated it:

   “The Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulcher sent him a delegation representing all the monks. The delegation consisted of two bishops and three archimandrites. They started to deliberately quarrel with him with the aim of getting an unfavorable reaction. The spirit of corruption coming from their mouths led them to make the following abhorrent address to him: ‘because you are sick, you cannot mix with the world. Meanwhile, you cannot stop us from doing so.’ The patriarch lost his nerve when he heard such scandalous talk and told them: ‘if you do not mend your ways and all your attitudes, I will resign.’ He gave this answer to them in writing. The monks therefore, used this written answer as a pretext to topple the patriarch. They claimed that his answer was tantamount to his resignation and they told him they considered him as having resigned whether he accepted it or not. They also told him that if he accepted to resign, they would guarantee for him an annual salary amounting to 700 French Liras. So he was compelled to acquiesce to their evil power.”[34]

    The resigned patriarch spent the remainder of his life at the St. George Monastery in Khalki Island, called the Island of the princes, in Istanbul. He died in February 1910 at the age of 83.

5- Patriarch Grasimos 1891-1897:

Grasimos received his education at al-Musallabah school and University of Athens. He taught at the al-Musallabah school for six years. Kyrillos II promoted him to the rank of archimandrite and then to the Archbishopric of Philadelphia. Ierotheos promoted him to the rank of the Metropolitan of Besan. He represented the Jerusalem Patriarchate in Istanbul. Nikodemus sent him later to East Jordan to resist the Catholic and Protestant proselytism there. He was then appointed as the Patriarch of Antioch (1885-1891). From there, he was summoned to hold the post of Patriarch of Jerusalem in 1891,[35] He was elected patriarch according to the law of 1875 in three consecutive sessions, “through the endeavors of his supporters at the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulcher.”[36]  During his reign, “he left no room for the nationalist Orthodox to rise up and demand rights, because through his shrewdness, he managed to appease the people in the persons of their notables and clergy.”[37] When the nationalists asked him to enforce the content of the document of Patriarch Ierotheos, he told them coolly and indifferently: “Patriarch Ierotheos document was buried with him.”[38] Grasimos died of some disease in 1897.

In 1893 and during the reign of Nickodemus, a book appeared under the title of ‘Lamha tarikhia fi akhawiat alqabr almoqadas alyounania(Historic summary of the Greek Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulcher.) The pseudonymous name of the author was Abdelahad al-Shafi[39], and his real name could be Salim Mikhael Shehadeh (1848-1907).[40] He was a teacher and headmaster of Beirut’s Orthodox School. The book was printed for the second time in 1908 following the issuance of the Ottoman Constitution. The author added a footnote to the book saying that his name was Jerjes Abdullah al-Issa.[41] It is likely that Russia financed its printing and publication.[42] Patriarchs cautioned the Orthodox faithful against reading the book. In fact, reading the book was made prohibited and this helped its circulation on a large scale. The book was printed several times over. It consists of six parts. The al-Shafi text attacks the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulcher and the fact that it usurped the Jerusalem Patriarchal See while affirming the Arab nature of the Patriarchate before the sixteenth century.[43] The book also casts light on points that were regarded as very important in the East. The book criticizes the attitude of the monks and their moral stands.[44] It also criticizes the monks for their greed for money.[45]

Greek writers often replied to the charges leveled against them.[46] Paul Deplaissan asserted that Russian diplomacy was behind the book because the Russians sought to distort the image of the Greek clergy in the eyes of the Arabs in preparation for expelling them from the Antioch Patriarchate.[47] The position of the Greek clergy in the Palestinian and Syrian Patriarchates was deteriorating and was falling under Russian hegemony. “The love of the Holy Places began to dwindle in the hearts of the Greek clergy. Their financial revenues were declining and they were no longer secure about their future. They were no longer viewing the Palestinian and Syrian Patriarchates as a land of milk and honey. With time, they became less in number. Russia started to replace them with clergy who were loyal to it and who were faithful to the Tsar and to pay them alluring  stipends.”[48] Russia scored an all-out victory in arabizing the Antioch Patriarchate and in installing the first Arab patriarch in it.

6- Arabization of the Antioch Patriarchate: 

Through their agents, consuls and schools, the Russians nurtured the Arab national feeling. The independence of the Church of Greece and the Bulgarian Church became the example that should be followed in the Orthodox Churches that were still under the rule of the Greek clergy. The Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulcher was controlling the Antioch and Jerusalem Patriarchates. However, in the Jerusalem Patriarchate, it was evident to Russia that it was not easy to transgress over the rights of the Greek clergy. Jerusalem was the impregnable bastion of the Brotherhood. The Russians were sure of this in the issue of disposing Patriarch Kyrillos and the issuance of the patriarchal law of 1875. Therefore, the Russians focused their efforts this time on Syria. The book ‘Lamha tarikhia...’ (Historic summary of the Greek Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulcher) asserted Russia’s hidden intentions to liquidate the Greek presence in Syria and to arabize the Antioch Church.

In 1885, Grasimos was enthroned as Patriarch of Antioch and remained so until 1891, when he ceded his Antioch throne to be enthroned as the Patriarch of Jerusalem. Spiridion, a Greek and member of the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulcher, was elected as Patriarch of the Antioch See. The Arabs resisted him and accused him of spending the funds of the Patriarchate in illegal ways. The estrangement reached the point where prayers were held in courtyards of the churches and where deceased persons were buried without funeral rites.[49] Spiridion made several concessions to the Arabs, but to no avail. In 1893, the Russians transferred Balyaev, secretary of the Russian Consulate in Jerusalem, to Damascus. Balyaev was an expert on Orthodox Arab affairs and had vast contacts with the Arab circles.[50] Meanwhile, the Imperial Orthodox Palestinian Society sponsored the schools of the Antioch Patriarchate in 1896. Therefore, the situation in general was not in favor of the Greek clergy.

However a divorce case, which Spiridion handled improperly, revealed the real intentions of the parties to the dispute and was used as a reason for his removal. Thus most of the Synod, whose majority was Arab, declared the dismissal of Spiridion. The issue of dismissal dragged on for two years and the Russian Consul in Damascus, the Russian ambassador in Istanbul, the Sublime Porte, and the Jerusalem Patriarchate participated in the appointments, dismissals and interventions involved in the case. The Arabs insisted on their choice despite the pressure exerted on them by Istanbul and the Greeks. An Arab bishop Meletios Dumani[51] “was enthroned on November 13th 1899 in the presence of the Arab bishops and the Russian Consul and his staff. Balyaev was the first to receive the consecration bread during the Mass, and in the evening dined with the patriarch and his bishops.”[52]          

The Patriarchs of the Phanar, Jerusalem and Alexandria did not recognize the Arab patriarch and refused to exchange with him the messages of peace, which he sent to them. Meanwhile, the Churches of Russia, Serbia and Romania recognized him. The new patriarch, whom the Ottomans confirmed, “had to obtain the chrism for his coronation in 1900 from Moscow.”[53]


The last quarter of the nineteenth century represented the beginning of the Arab-Greek conflict in the Jerusalem and Antioch Patriarchates. Following the deposing of Kyrillos, Arab national Orthodox feelings started to appear. The Arabs started to look forward to regaining their ecclesiastical rights, which they lost in the earlier centuries. The outcome of the dismissal of Kyrillos was the issuance of the basic law of the Jerusalem Patriarchate in 1875. The law was a weapon in the hands of both Arabs and Greeks. The Arabs raised this weapon to regain their usurped rights and the Greeks used it to consolidate their rights and benefits, which had been gained over the long centuries. Thus the law constituted a controversy between them, particularly in the era of Patriarch Damianos.

The Russians changed the pattern of their presence in the Middle East. The Palestinian Commission withered away and the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission disappeared and gave way to a great and resourceful institution, the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society. The society enjoyed the personal care of the tsars. So it worked in the ranks of the Orthodox Palestinians and Syrians without restricting itself to the traditional reservations on the local jurisdictions of the patriarchs, which the successive Russian Missions tried hard to keep and not to openly transgress upon.


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