Jeff Wright reports in Mondoweiss:
“Our churches are threatened by Israeli radical fringe groups,” wrote Patriarch Theophilos III in a column published in last Saturday’s British daily, The Times. “At the hands of these Zionist extremists,” Jerusalem’s Greek Orthodox Patriarch said, “the Christian community in Jerusalem is suffering greatly.”
Theophilos charged that a rising number of assaults against Christians and church buildings are an attempt to drive the Christian community out of Jerusalem’s Old City, home to Christians, Jews and Muslims and their holy sites.
“Our brothers and sisters are the victims of hate crimes,” he wrote.
The column appeared January 8, the day after Greek Orthodox Christians celebrated Christmas.
According to Orthodox Times, the Patriarch had attended a Christmas Eve dinner in Bethlehem during which he gave a speech describing an increase in verbal and physical assaults on Christians committed by Israeli radical groups who “are committing their crimes in a deliberate attempt to expel Christians from Jerusalem and other parts of the Holy Land.”
In the speech, Theophilos pointed to assaults against the Christian presence “especially in Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem, the entrance of pilgrims to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the various monasteries and churches of the Old City, in addition to the actions of distorting the cultural and historical identity of the area of the New Gate.”
In both his Christmas Eve speech and The Times article, Theophilos took a step beyond a December 13 statement issued by thirteen Christian leaders and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem.