Ramallah – Ma’an – Bethlehem Governor Abdel Fattah Hamayel called the Arab Orthodox insitttions decision to boycott Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III’s reception to Bethlehem for Christmas “unfortunate,” and cautioned the church to be aware of the politics around the disposal of their lands.
A group of 13 community and religious leaders form the Bethlehem area gathered Wednesday and decided to boycott the reception of the Patriarch on his 6 January Christmas visit to Bethlehem. The decision was made, group members said, over the Patriarch’s failure to adequately redress land leases the former, and deposed, patriarch had made with Israeli construction companies.
“What is going on now is really very unfortunate,” Hamayel told Ma’an, adding “the lands issue is a very sensitive case and of utmost importance for the homeland.”
Hamayel said that while the lands in question belong to the church and it is ultimately up to the Patriarch what happens with them, “we must put into consideration the political level because the lands are so precious.” He called the sale of the lands to Israel “treason,” and said the position of the Orthodox institutions came out of a great patriotism for the homeland.
The mayor said he would meet with members of the group behind the boycott to discuss the issue.