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Arab Christians urged to boycott Patriarch Theophilos's Christmas sermons

Palestinian Christians accuse Theophilos III of 'collaborating' with Israeli authorities [Getty]

Date of publication: 6 January, 2016

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Arab Christians in Palestine and Jordan are urged to boycott Orthodox Christmas Day sermons by Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem over claims of collaboration with Israeli authorities.
A boycott of Orthodox Christmas Day sermons led by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem has been called for by Orthodox communities across Palestine and Jordan.

Patriarch Theophilos III has been accused of leasing land to and collaborating with 'Israeli occupiers'.

Many Orthodox Christians annually celebrate Christmas Day on or near January 7 to remember Jesus Christ’s birth, described in the Christian Bible. This date works to the Julian calendar that pre-dates the Gregorian calendar, which is commonly observed.

Protests were held in Bethlehem on Wednesday condemning the Patriarch, claiming that he is not welcome to lead Christmas ceremonies there.

The Arab Orthodox Youth in Jordan and Palestine issued a statement in December urging Palestinian Christians to boycott his Christmas ceremonies.

"Theophilos III is not the legitimate patriarch of the Church of Jerusalem," the statement read, "He is unworthy of trust and does not represent the Arab Orthodox in Jordan and Palestine."

The Patriarch has been accused of leasing land in south of Jerusalem to Israeli companies, paving way for the expansion of Israeli settlements in the village of Beit Safafa.

"The Patriarch has collaborated in the leasing of [Palestinian] Christian land and properties to the occupiers," said Firas al-Bandak, an activist from the Arab Orthodox Youth.

"He has also called for the enlisting of [Palestinian] Christians in the Israeli army," Bandak told The New Arab.

Banners and posters have been put up in across Bethlehem calling a boycott ahead of the Patriarch's planned ceremonies.

Palestinian Christians are a significant minority population in Palestine, who number over 500,000 worldwide, including those in the Palestinian diaspora.

At least half of Palestinian Christians belong to the Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem.

Among them are prominent scholars, politicians and activists, including Edward Said and Hanan Ashrawi, identified as leading figures within the Palestinian cause.

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