The Greek Orthodox patriarch in the Holy Land said his church will appeal an Israeli court decision that approved the sale of church property in Jerusalem's Old City to a company that buys property for Jews in mostly Arab areas of the Old City.
Theophilos said at a press conference in the Jordanian capital Amman that this legal battle, which has been going on for a decade, has resulted in an unjust decision that has ignored very clear legal evidence presented by the church, which made it clear that it was done in "bad faith, bribery and conspiracy" for the benefit of the group of settlers from Ateret Cohanim.
"The church will do everything within its power so that this unjust ruling will be overturned", he said.
The Greek Orthodox church is one of the largest property owners in the Holy Land, including in Jerusalem's Old City, one of the most sensitive areas of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The majority of Palestinian Christians in the occupied Palestinian territory, Israel, and Jordan are Greek Orthodox and belong to the church led by Theophilos.
The patriarch also expressed concern about what he said was an effort by some members of Israel's parliament to restrict the rights of his church and other Christian denominations in the Holy Land to deal independently with their real estate holdings. Since 1967, when Israel annexed east Jerusalem, some 200,000 Jews have moved to neighborhoods built for them by successive Israeli governments. In addition, Jewish settler groups have bought homes in Arab neighborhoods.
He urged the heads of churches to find a joint response to "this alarming and serious development" that he said will affect Christians in the region and around the world.
He called on church and world leaders to coordinate their activities and intervene to prevent this ruling from taking hold.
According to Israeli media, the agreements, which were initially signed in 2004, were for 99-year leases on hotel properties near Jaffa Gate.
On Saturday, church officials declined to answer when asked about the holdings.