The Archbishop of Orthodox Sebastia has insisted that "those who sell and forfeit our real estate and Orthodox endowments do not represent our Arab Church, its heritage, identity and historical presence in this holy land," Quds Net News Agency has reported.
"We hope, therefore, that the various media outlets which are covering the news of these suspicious deals will not say that the Orthodox Church sells its endowments, because the church is innocent and has nothing to do with the acts of these foreign people," added Atallah Hanna. "Their goals are very well known as well as their agendas and those who support them, stand by them, justify their actions and stand behind them."
Archbishop Hanna made his comments following the decision by an Israeli court to allow Jewish settlers to enter the properties and hotels which provide the façade of the area that embraces the monasteries, the Christian Patriarchate and the road leading to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. "We will not allow the extremist settlers to break into these properties, which are part of our historical national heritage in the Holy City," he told a meeting of Orthodox community members on Sunday. "These estates were built by bishops, priests and monks who have been distinguished for their sanctity, spirituality and love for their church. These endowments are part of the heritage of Jerusalem and its cultural, spiritual and national identity." The settlers' efforts, he said, "conspire" against the presence of Christians in Jerusalem.
He condemned and rejected what he called "these suspicious deals, the most recent of which was that of Bab Al-Khalil [Jaffa Gate, in Jerusalem's Old City], which is considered as one of the most dangerous deals." In fact, he pointed out, its repercussions will have a dangerous effect on the Christian presence in Jerusalem and contribute to the distortion of the old city and the policy of changing its features. "This deal falls within the framework of the policies of the [Israeli] occupation, which targets Jerusalem and all its components."
The Orthodox patriarch said that the Bab Al-Khalil deal is the "most dangerous" of all. "As such, I want to draw the attention of the Orthodox institutions and the parishioners, who are faithful to their affiliation to the church, to the need to work together and think about what we must do to deter and stop this ominous deal."
The senior churchman called for practical protests, one of which might be to establish a sit-in tent at Bab Al-Khalil, opposite the targeted hotels, or to enter these hotels and challenge the Israeli settlers who are planning to seize them. "It is no longer enough to make statements of denunciation and indignation. We have to take practical steps to preserve what remains of our religious endowments and properties." The deal was the reason for the dismissal of former Patriarch Irenios, he pointed out.
Nevertheless, Archbishop Hanna was upbeat about the chances of success with such protests. "Just like the Jerusalemites who were able to compel the occupation authorities to remove the iron gates and cameras [at Al-Aqsa Mosque] through their unity, steadfastness and resilience," he noted, "with our unity and steadfastness, we will be capable of thwarting this ominous and dangerous plan which targets our Orthodox endowments in Bab Al-Khalil."