Palestinians lawyers yesterday filed a legal complaint against the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilus III for selling land to Israeli companies and settlers.
Some 300 Palestinian Christians and associations have taken the action after the Greek Orthodox Clergy refused their requests to open the books on the property sales and reveals details surrounding them.
They accused the church primate of “treason,” “selling property to the enemy,” “breaking promises of safeguarding church property” and “contributing to Israeli plans to Judaize Jerusalem” by selling or leasing off large tracts of land to Israeli authorities and investors, betraying the church’s responsibility to protect Palestinian lands that were handed under its care during the Ottoman period.
Deputy Head of the Arab Orthodox Central Council in Palestine and Jordan, attorney Nabil Mashhour, said: “Many properties were transferred to Israeli companies and settlement groups.”
In early August, an Israeli court ruled that Israeli settlement groups have the right to take over properties that belong to the Greek Orthodox Church, which are two hotels and a large building in the Old City of Jerusalem. The church had argued that the deal had been made “illegally”.
In response, the Archbishop of Orthodox Sebastia 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.”
However, Arab Christian figures confirm that the current Patriarch Theophilus III, who came to power in 2005, is indeed involved in making such deals.
The case dates back to 2004, after three foreign companies signed three secret real estate deals with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate.
In the first deal, Beresford Investments Limited, an Israeli settlement groups company, held a deal to take over the Petra Hotel, a four-storey building located in Omar Bin Al Khattab Square, between Bab Al-Khalil and Al-Hay Al-Arabi in Jerusalem.
The first deal’s contract states that this property will be leased for 99 years, with the possibility of extending it for another 99 years.
In the second deal, Richards Marketing, also an Israeli settlement groups company, took over the Imperial Hotel, including the shops underneath it, which a two-storey hotel located close to the Petra Hotel in Bab Al-Khalil.