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Bishop Riah banned: The Church of England Newspaper, July 16 2010 p 6. July 19, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Corruption, Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East, Property Litigation.

The Rt. Rev. Riah Abu al-Assal

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

An Israeli court has banned the former Bishop in Jerusalem from trespassing on diocesan property and has rejected his claims of ownership of a church school in Nazareth.

The three year legal battle over Christ Church School in Nazareth has pitted retired Bishop Riah Abu al-Assal against the current diocesan Bishop Suheil Dawani and has spawned charges and counter charges of fraud and violence.

In its pleadings the Diocese in Jerusalem said that shortly before his retirement in March 2007, Bishop Riah established a charitable trust staffed by members of his family and sought to transfer the assets and administration of the diocese’s Christ Church School over to the “Bishop Riah Educational Campus.”

The diocese said Bishop Riah had collected tuition fees from the students while the school’s expenses, including staff salaries, were being paid by the diocese, and had also asked the CMS to give him a power of attorney over the school property.  In his court filings Bishop Riah countered that he had provided the funds for building the school, which employed his son as headmaster, and that he had raised funds for the school in his personal rather than episcopal capacity.

Following attempts at mediation, the diocese brought suit against Bishop Riah and his family trust for possession of the school and the tuition fees, and on Jan 22, 2008 a magistrate court granted the diocese control of the assets pending final adjudication.  Last month a final decision was handed down by the Israeli courts on the real estate which denied Bishop Riah all rights and access “without express written permission of the diocesan Bishop Suheil Dawani,” or involvement “at all in any matter, without exception, in the matters of church and the school.”

Earlier this year the primate of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East released a public letter asking Bishop Riah to return to the diocese the £1 million in school fees he had collected, or explain why he was entitled to keep the money.

In a letter dated March 20, Bishop Mouneer Anis of Egypt said he had been “informed by the Diocese of Jerusalem that Bishop Riah has collected five and a half million NIS shekels (£1 million) in tuition fees from the parents while his son continued as the Principal of the school.  I was also informed by the Diocese of Jerusalem that Bishop Suheil, as the newly consecrated Diocesan Bishop, was prevented from entering the school with the members of the Board.”

“If Bishop Riah does not think that the claims of the Diocese of Jerusalem in regards to these funds are true, he should present the evidence of this,” he said.

The battle between the two bishops was a scandal for the Anglican Church in Jerusalem, Dr. Anis said, urging a speedy resolution to the dispute as it was “breaking the heart of the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East” and casting the diocese in disrepute.

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