Dozens of Palestinian activists and representatives of Christian Orthodox groups organized a sit-in on Sunday in the southern occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem to denounce the Greek Orthodox Church Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, who they accused of selling church property to Israelis.
The demonstration, which was organized by the general secretariat of the Council of Arab Orthodox Youth, took place in front of the Nativity Church in Bethlehem, and was attended by the mayors of Bethlehem and the neighboring towns of Beit Jala and Beit Sahour.
A similar protest was reportedly supposed to take place in front of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in occupied East Jerusalem, but was prevented by Israeli police, prompting clerics to denounce Theophilos III’s practices inside the church following Sunday mass.
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“This protest comes after it was revealed that more than 500 dunams (123.5 acres) of land belonging to the Arab Orthodox Church in Jerusalem have been sold to entrepreneurs belonging to Zionist and settler groups,” protesters told Ma’an, adding that Theophilos III and his entourage were allegedly involved in the deals.
The protesters called for the patriarch to be stripped of his titles, have his Jordanian citizenship revoked, and be questioned by both the Palestinian Authority and the Jordanian government.
Bethlehem Mayor Antoun Salman said the protest was not the first of its kind in Bethlehem, adding that visits by Theophilus III to the biblical town had been boycotted in the past.
Detractors have accused the patriarchate of contributing to Israeli plans to “Judaize” Jerusalem by selling or leasing off large amounts of land to Israeli authorities and business people, betraying the church’s responsibility to protect Palestinian lands that were handed under its care during the Ottoman period.
(Maan, PC, Social Media)