Christian Arabs slam Greek patriarch for selling land to Jews

Some 50 protesters outside central Israeli church wave banners calling Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III “not trustworthy” for alleged land sales • Church, whose local flock is mainly Palestinian, is one of the largest real estate holders in area.

Dozens of Christian Arabs demonstrated in central Israel on Thursday against the Greek Orthodox patriarch of the Holy Land, demanding his resignation for allegedly selling off church land to Israelis.

Some 50 protesters gathered outside St. George Church, where Patriarch Theophilos III had arrived to pray. Some waved banners calling him “not trustworthy.” Others scuffled with his supporters.

The Greek Orthodox Church is one of the largest real estate owners in the area. It is dominated by Greek clergy while the flock is overwhelmingly Palestinian.

Activists have presented documents suggesting that the patriarch sold land in sweetheart deals. An Israeli court has upheld the transactions, conducted by Theophilos’ since-deposed predecessor.

Demonstrator Ghassan Mounayer accused the church of giving land to “Jewish businessmen instead of investing it in the well-being of the Christian community.”