Jerusalem’s Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilus III met with the King of Jordan, Abdullah on Wednesday and is to meet later with Pope Francis in Rome, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and UK church leaders in order to drum up support over a controversy sparked by church land sales.
According to a Times of Israel report, the Patriarch has been slammed by Israel and the Palestinians for selling church property and now is seeking the help of Greece, UK and the Vatican.
Theophilus met with Jordan’s King Abdullah in Amman and asked for his support, after he was being lambasted by Israelis for having sold church land off to anonymous investors and by Palestinians within his own church for selling property altogether, the Times of Israel say.
The Patriarch is under fire for having sold large plots of land in Jerusalem, Caesarea, Jaffa and Tiberias to private companies registered in offshore companies, the identities of whose owners are secret. The sales have caused concern among Israeli lawmakers and officials over the possibility that enemy elements may have been involved in the purchase, the Times of Jerusalem report.
At the same time, Theophilus is seeking support against an August court ruling that upheld a separate set of controversial real estate deals struck between his predecessor Irenaios and an Israeli right-wing group for properties in Jerusalem’s Old City.
The properties bought by the Israeli group include two hotels just inside Jaffa Gate in East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians see as the capital of a future Palestinian state. That was sufficient to lead to the overthrow of Irenaios, Theophilus’ predecessor. Now Theophilus is seeking help from Jordan.
After the meeting between Theophilus and King Abdullah, the latter issued a statement published by the Jordanian news agency Petra, which said that, “Any attempt to confiscate the properties of Christians in East Jerusalem is null and void and should be stopped.”
“Jordan, as part of the Hashemite custodianship of the Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem, will continue its efforts to preserve these sites and defend the properties of churches at all international forums and UNESCO sessions,” the statement added.
According to the Times of Jerusalem, on October 23, Theophilus is scheduled to meet with the Pope at the Vatican, on October 29 with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Athens, and on November 1st with the Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Anglican church in the UK.