Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III holds mass in the Church of the Nativity, built atop the site where Christians believe Jesus Christ was born, to celebrate Christmas according to the Eastern Orthodox calendar, in the West Bank City of Bethlehem, Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

Palestinians protest patriarch ahead of Orthodox Christmas

January 06, 2019 - 10:36 am

BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) — Dozens of Palestinians are protesting the arrival of the Greek Orthodox patriarch of the Holy Land at an Orthodox Christmas celebration in Bethlehem.

The protesters shouted "traitor" at Patriarch Theophilos III as he made his way under heavy guard Sunday toward the Church of the Nativity, revered by Christians as the traditional site of Jesus's birthplace. Palestinians have been demanding his resignation for allegedly selling church land to Israelis.

The Greek Orthodox church is one of the largest real estate owners in the Holy Land. It is dominated by Greek clergy while the flock is overwhelmingly Palestinian.

The Orthodox mark Christmas on January 7, according to the Gregorian, rather than Julian, calendar.

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