There is a deepening hopelessness among Christians in the Holy Land, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III warned on Thursday.
“Our young people do not see a future of hope, but only a future of increasing despair, lack of opportunity, and the elusiveness of peace,” Theophilos said at the annual reception hosted by President Isaac Herzog for spiritual and lay leaders of Christian communities in the Holy land.
This is a matter of urgent concern to the Churches, he continued according to the Jerusalem Post, “and we hope that it might also be a matter of urgent concern to the governing authorities of our region. When people are robbed of hope, especially young people, there is not only the consequence of despair; there is also the prospect of uncertainty.”
On a more positive note, Theophilos commended President Herzog for his personal concern for the well-being of all the people in the region, which he said was “well-known and acknowledged.”
At the same time, the leaders of the Churches want Herzog to use his ongoing influence to ensure that their historic privileges and rights are upheld, including their properties which, Theophilos said, “are part and parcel of the sacred common geography of the three religious traditions of the Holy Land and are currently threatened.”
Israeli radicals to blame for threats against Christians in the Holy Land
Although on this occasion, the Patriarch did not name the groups threatening Christians in the Holy Land he had named “Israeli radical groups” during his meeting with US President Joe Biden in Bethlehem in July 2022.
Theophilos spoke out against what he called “unprecedented attacks by Israeli radical groups” meant to repel Christians from the holy city.
In a statement, he said he told the US leader that such radicals act “without accountability” and that their actions include attacks on churches and efforts to seize properties.
He pointed to “the challenges facing Christians and the extent to which things have reached,” including attacks on churches, insults against clergy, attempts to block the faithful from places of worship, and attempts to seize Christian real estate.
In an earlier statement Theophilos had said:
Our presence in Jerusalem is under threat. Our churches are threatened by Israeli radical fringe groups. At the hands of these Zionist extremists, the Christian community in Jerusalem is suffering greatly. Our brothers and sisters are the victims of hate crimes. Our churches are regularly desecrated and vandalized. Our clergy is subject to frequent intimidation. The sworn intent of these radical groups is to extinguish the light of the Christian community from the Old City.
Jerusalem is home to three monotheistic religions, namely Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and has long been an illuminating example of a mosaic community. It is the spiritual capital of the world, comprising a family of faiths, all of which enjoy a long, unique, and rich heritage.
Christian leaders have increasingly complained that their communities are under threat of being driven from the region by extremist Israeli radical groups.
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