According to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem’s website, the Patriarchate has successfully recovered “strategic” lands in Jerusalem after more than a decade of tireless efforts. These lands are of religious, heritage, and archaeological value, containing Byzantine monuments and located next to the Orthodox Church in the Abu Tour area.
The Patriarchate has regained its “full” rights over a plot of land it owns in the Abu Tour neighborhood of Jerusalem by paying a significant sum. All restrictions hindering its full ownership of the property, resulting from old lease agreements and reservations from judicial rulings accumulated over time, have been removed. The Patriarchate had previously entered into partnerships to develop this property for financial reasons and is now succeeding in regaining its ownership.
All of this happened under the leadership and guidance of His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III, Patriarch of Jerusalem and all Palestine and Jordan, and his close follow-up. Since assuming the Position of Patriarch, he has been working to recover lands and real estate looted or confiscated belonging to the Patriarchate.
As stated on the Patriarchate’s page, we in the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) sustain and support “that the recovery of land is a positive progress and a tangible result of the policy of recovery and protection of Orthodox real estate adopted by the Holy Synod since the election of His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III, Patriarch of Jerusalem and all Palestine and Jordan, who personally follows up on a daily basis the file of the recovery and protection of Orthodox property”.
As a Christian of the Levant, a son of Antioch, I feel joy and pride for this achievement, which I consider to be at the heart of safeguarding the Christian presence in our region, which suffers from wars and occupations that no other region in the world has suffered. Protecting this presence and ensuring its continuity are among the basic principles on which the Middle East Council of Churches was founded. We in the MECC urge His Beatitude to continue this momentous work, and we have expressed, more than once, to our brothers from the Church of Jerusalem, our readiness to open our media pages for any advocacy campaign aimed at protecting the property of this Patriarchate located in occupied areas.
We all witness through the media how Zionist settler organizations attack the property of our people in Jerusalem and the rest of Palestine, how they expel people from their homes, and how members of these associations try to desecrate the sanctities of our people of various affiliations. We support what was stated on the page of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem in terms of considering “this historic regain of rights to the land of Abu Tor, a practical and realistic response to the attempts of radical groups which seeks to seize the Church’s real estate and to restrict the authentic Christian presence in Jerusalem”.
As goes a popular saying in my country: “The right does not die when somebody claims it.”
The property of churches, called endowments, was donated by ancestors for the benefit of future generations, not to be taken away by squatters, settlers, or trespassers. This applies to both Christian and Muslim endowments.
These are gifts made by believers to express their gratitude to the Lord and their appreciation for His gifts. Through these gifts, they aim to offer support mixed with love to those less fortunate. These properties are used for the construction of worship places, schools, orphanages, homes for the elderly, homes for people with special needs, housing projects to shelter the neediest families, or investments that provide jobs for people and income for the church to help cover its administrative and social burdens. These gifts were not left by faithful ancestors to be tampered with by anyone who finds his way to do it.
Churches that recover, preserve, and manage their endowments are doing authentic work of faith. Those closest to God are “the most beneficial to His creatures,” and this is the role of the Church.
Do these settlers understand what the term “endowment money” means?
I don’t think so, as they deal with our endowments using the logic of “captivity” money or conqueror benefits. They must be put within limits, as the Patriarchate of Jerusalem did.
All churches must take a firm stance against attacks on their endowments, as maintaining them helps protect and preserve human life.