BETHLEHEM, West Bank – Dozens of Palestinians in Bethlehem are protesting the arrival of the Greek Orthodox patriarch of the Holy Land to celebrate Orthodox Christmas.
The protesters scuffled with Palestinian police and church supporters Saturday as Theophilos III made his way toward the Church of the Nativity, revered as Jesus' birthplace. Palestinians have been demanding his resignation for allegedly selling church land to Israelis in sweetheart deals.
Protesters and others pushed down temporary metal fencing and engaged in shoving and kicking about a kilometer from the church where Christmas services are set to be held. The Orthodox mark Christmas according to the Gregorian, rather than Julian, calendar.
The 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.