Christian Arabs demand resignation of Greek patriarch over church land deals

Around 50 Christian Arabs gathered outside St. George Church in central Israel on Nov. 16 to call for the resignation of Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III whom they accuse of selling church land to Jewish businessmen.

(REUTERS / Ronen Zvulun)Damascus Gate is seen at the entrance to Jerusalem's Old City, May 14, 2017.

As Patriarch Theophilos III arrived at the St. George Church to pray on Thursday, dozens of Christian Arabs waved banners to protest his alleged part in the sale of church land. Some of the demonstrators also fought with the supporters of the Greek Orthodox patriarch, The Associated Press detailed.

Ghassan Mounayer, one of the protesters, said the Greek Orthodox church had given its land to "Jewish businessmen instead of investing in the well-being of the Christian community." There were also documents showing the land deals, which have since been upheld by an Israeli court.

Meanwhile, the Orthodox Central Council in Jordan and Palestine issued a statement spurning the justifications of the sale of Palestinian lands to Israelis. The council said the deals were not valid since they caused "the loss of land and the displacement of Christians from Jerusalem. This is what the Zionists want," The Middle East Monitor relayed.

In addition, the council maintained that the land involved in the transactions were "one unit" and were part of an endowment "which is not entitled to any disposition." The deals included that of Rahavi, Talbiyeh, Tiberias, Jaffa, and Qaysariya.

The statement was released after the Central Council president, the Orthodox Association president, the National Orthodox Institution leaders, and Central Council in Jordan's members met in Amman on Nov. 13. They discussed the things that affected the Jerusalem Orthodox Patriarchate in Palestine, and these included the controversial land deals.

Moreover, the Orthodox Central Council in Jordan and Palestine wants to put an end to a proposed Israeli law that would let church lands be confiscated. They also called for the preservation and protection of religious endowments and of both Christian and Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem.