Orthodox Patriarch targeted in Jerusalem protests against Church land sales

Palestinians have rallied in Jerusalem against the selling of church property to Jewish settlers.

The protesters demanded the removal of Patriarch Theophilos III over his role in selling the land.

Property near the Jaffa Gate has been sold to Jewish settlers.Wikimedia Commons

According to Al Jazeera, they held signs reading: 'We demand the freedom of the Orthodox Church from Theophilos and from corruption' and 'Church land belongs to the church and its congregants – not to Theophilos and his gang.'

The rally was sparked by a court ruling over the selling of three major compounds near the Jaffa Gate in the Old City to an Israeli Jewish settler group, Ateret Cohanim, which aims to expand the Jewish presence in the occupied city.

Another issue is a bill in the seeking to nationalise lands owned by churches in west Jerusalem and sold to private entrepreneurs.

Mainly in the 1950s, churches leased the disputed properties in west Jerusalem to the Jewish National Fund.

In the coming 20-50 years the lease periods will end, and the churches have reportedly sold pockets of the land to private entrepreneurs in a deal that affects the residents and creates future uncertainty.

The protests reflect fears expressed by the leaders of Jerusalem Churches from several denominations – including Theophilus himself – that there is a 'systematic attempt to undermine the integrity of the Holy City of Jerusalem and the Holy Land, and to weaken the Christian presence'.