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Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theofilos III made a series of appointments yesterday that introduced Palestinian and Arab Israeli clerics into the predominantly Greek church hierarchy.

At a meeting of the Holy Synod at the patriarchate in Jerusalem, Archimandrite Atallah Hanna was made Bishop of Sebastia. Hanna has served as a spokesman for the church on Arab networks, where he expressed support for suicide bombers.

The patriarch also appointed two bishops of Greek origin, and promoted four priests to archimandrites.

In another first, Theofilos appointed to the Synod a 30-year-old Palestinian priest from Beit Jala, Galaktion.

The promotion of Hanna and Galaktion follows demands from the local congregation to be involved in managing the patriarchate. Since his inauguration just 10 days ago, Theofilos has also come under heavy pressure from the Palestinian Authority and Jordanian government to promote Palestinian priests and bring Hanna into the Synod. He opted for a compromise, promoting Hanna but bringing Galaktion into the Synod instead.

Theofilos appointed the Metropolitan Vasilius as his deputy, as well as a new Synod secretary and a new director for the finances department.