|Archbishop of Sebastia|
Archbishop Theodosios (Hanna) of Sebastia
since December 24, 2005
|Diocese||Orthodox Church of Jerusalem|
|Formation||1st Century AD|
Theodosios (Hanna) of Sebastia (born 1965) is the Archbishop of Sebastia from the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Ordained on the 24 December 2005 at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, he is the second Palestinian to hold the position of Archbishop in the history of the diocese.
Born Atallah Hanna in Rameh to Eastern Orthodox parents in the Upper Galilee, Archbishop Theodosios studied Greek in Jerusalem, continuing his studies in Greece where he earned his Master of Theology from University of Thessalonica School of Theology in 1991. Returning to Jerusalem, he was ordained as a priest at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre that same year. Active in public life, he has served as the spokesperson and Director of the Patriarchate's Arab Department, has taught in local schools, and lectured on Christianity at the Haifa Arab Teachers' College. For his devotion to ministry in the Holy Land, Theodosios was granted an honorary Doctor of Theology degree from the Sofia Theological Institute in Bulgaria and the title of Archimandrite.
Appointed by the late Patriarch Diodoros to serve as the official spokesperson for the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem in 2001, Theodosios gained renown for his high-profile political activism, his outspoken denunciation of the occupation, and his stress upon the importance of Palestinian identity - positions that have made him popular with Arabs and unpopular with the Israeli authorities. Before being ordained Archbishop, Theodosios had been arrested, detained and interrogated more than once by the Israeli authorities under various allegations of 'incitement'.
Theodosios also served as a member of the Constitutional Consultative Committee that worked on the third draft of the Palestinian constitution of March 2003  and was awarded the Jerusalem Prize by the Palestinian National Authority's Ministry of Culture in 2004. He is also one of the authors of Kairos Palestine together with Patriarch Michel Sabah, Naim Ateeq, Rifat Odeh Kassis, Nora Qort and others.
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Theodosios represented Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Diodoros as part of a Palestinian ecumenical delegation invited by the World Council of Churches (WCC) to present before the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. At the WCC's Geneva headquarters on 19 October 2000, he stated that Palestinian Christians "are suffering, because they are Palestinians and they want to stay in their homeland in Palestine". Theodosios also accused Israel of practicing "ethnic cleansing against the Arabs, Muslim and Christian. Everyone thinks that there is a conflict between Arabs and Israelis. It is not a conflict between Arabs and Israelis, but an occupation by Israel." He called on all WCC churches to hold a special prayer for the Palestinian people and stated that they "should be enjoying all the rights of any other nation ... and should be enjoying their independence in their own state, the capital of which is Jerusalem."
The following year, on 10 October 2001, Theodosios participated with other Christian and Muslim leaders in a march from Jerusalem to the Bethlehem checkpoint to protest Israeli attacks on religious sites. Theodosios explained that, "We intend to conduct special prayers inside the Church of the Nativity for the sake of our martyrs."
Later that month, Theodosios sent a message to the United Nations Human Rights Commission calling for "immediate and rapid intervention" by the United Nations "to save the Palestinian people from the terrible massacres being carried out by the occupation forces". He also called for the Commission to pressure Israel to lift its blockade of Palestinian towns and villages.
On 21 January 2002, Israel requested that the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate take punitive action against Archimandrite Atallah Hanna, for criticizing Israeli policy in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
In March 2002, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem issued a statement expressing, "denunciation and condemnation over Israel's suspension of Archimandrite Dr. Atallah Hanna at King Hussein bridge between Jordan and the West Bank upon his return from Beirut, for five hours in a very racist and provocative way." The patriarchy also expressed its regret over the demand of the Israeli government that Theodosios be fired from his position as church spokesperson, considering this measure to be "a grave violation to its sovereignty in running its affairs."
In July 2002, Greek Patriarch of Jerusalem Irineos I accused Theodosios of "supporting the Palestinian terrorism," after he refused to sign a document condemning Palestinian operations and he fired him from his post as spokesperson. The Arab Orthodox community responded by issuing an urgent statement calling on the Greek Foreign Ministry to intervene, stressing that Theodosios would remain the spokesperson for the church with or without Greek acceptance. Arab Orthodox figures urged the Orthodox Arab Christian communities in Palestine and Jordan to boycott the Greek Patriarch and the Father Theodosios Atallah Hanna Defense Committee was formed to mobilize on his behalf.
Arrest and confiscation of travel documents
Day of the arrest
On 22 August 2002, Theodosios was arrested outside of his home in the Old City of Jerusalem by Israeli Border Police on the order of Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein. He was taken to the Russian Compound where he was charged with 'suspicion of relations with terrorist organisations', 'illegally entering an enemy country' (i.e. Syria and Lebanon) and 'incitement'. Media were present at the site of his interrogation which lasted five hours. Theodosios explained that he regularly visited Syria and Lebanon to attend religious and inter-religious conferences and dialogues using his Vatican passport. Israeli police confiscated Theodosios' Israeli and Vatican issued passports.
Theodosios' response to the arrest
Upon his release, Theodosios claimed that his arrest had been unjustified since "he had only expressed opposition to Israel's military occupation of areas claimed by the Palestinians." In an interview with The Palestine Chronicle in September 2002, Theodosios said that his arrest marked "the first time that a Christian religious leader and official is arrested in such an inhumane and non-acceptable manner that is devoid of all human ethics and without any prior notification."
Sharing his view as to the reasons for his arrest, he explained that:
In the past three months, a far-reaching defamation campaign was launched against me in a number of Israeli newspapers accusing me of supporting terrorism and violence and condoning suicide attacks. I have a strong conviction that the slander, assault and arrest are all part of a chain of accusations meant to deliver a message to me, and the rest of the Christian and Moslem religious leaders ... The Israeli authority has launched a campaign aiming at silencing all those nationalistic voices in Jerusalem and claiming that these voices support terrorism, violence, etc. I believe that the only concerned party is the Israeli authority. In my case there could be some elements involved from within the Church itself, and this is something that I cannot disregard, especially that there are those who do not share my stance on issues pertaining to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Theodosios further stated that:
I believe that the act of ousting me from my position as the official spokesperson of the Church and the other measures taken are closely related to the pressure and blackmail exercised especially that the Patriarch confirmed to me months ago that I am targeted and that Israel has demanded that he oust me from my position. This is what actually happened later on based on the Israeli desire to conceal the Christian dimension of the Palestinian issue. Israel attempts to present this conflict as a Jewish-Moslem religious conflict, and it also attempts to neutralize the Christian position, and therefore it is irritated by the growing Christian voices raised on the Palestinian issue. We have always asserted that the Church in Palestine is there to serve all Palestinians for it is a church for the people. It is also a church that is deeply rooted in this land and the Arab Palestinian Christians and Moslems who live in it. We have always asserted our resistance to the Israeli pressure, and we believe that in the case of the arrest itself Israel has transgressed all borders.
Responding to the charge of visiting "enemy states", Theodosios explained that:
As to the case of the visit to Syria considered by Israel an enemy country, we say that we are not bound by the Israeli stance. The number of people who belong to the Greek Orthodox Church in Syria exceeds a million and the number in Lebanon exceeds half a million. Israel has no right of preventing us from visiting Syria and Lebanon under the claim that these are enemy countries especially that we maintain spiritual and nationalistic ties with these countries. When we visit these countries we meet with all political and religious officials with no exceptions whatsoever. We are open to everyone. Israel has no right of claiming that we maintain relations with terrorist organizations because what Israel calls terrorist maybe to us nationalistic, freedom fighters. We refuse to accept the terms that Israel dictates; therefore, what Israel condemns or what it elevates may not be necessarily as such to us.
Legal advocacy to reclaim passports
On 28 October 2002, Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel sent a letter to the Attorney General's office on Theodosios' behalf demanding that they intervene to return both the Israeli and Vatican passports that had been confiscated from Theodosios by the Israeli police. Adalah noted that a few weeks earlier, the police had summoned Theodosios to collect his passports on the condition that he sign "a statement promising not to incite against the state or make statements in support of terrorist actions or organizations; not to visit states hostile to Israel without the permission of the Ministry of Interior; and not to contact enemy states (as defined under Israeli law) or terrorist organizations." Theodosios refused, and the police refused to return his passports. Adalah argued that the police decision to withhold Theodosios' passports had no basis in any law and did not serve any legitimate purpose, and that the document he was asked to sign also had no legal basis and violated the Israel's domestic laws on equality. On 28 October 2002, the Attorney General sent a letter to the police legal advisor requesting his urgent reply to Adalah's letter.
As of February 2005, both passports belonging to Archimandrite Theodosios had not yet been returned.
Activism against sales of church property in Jerusalem
In 2005, Archimandrite Theodosios was active in the movement to dethrone Patriarch Irineos following allegations that land belonging to the Greek Orthodox Church had been sold to Zionist Jewish organizations. After election of new Patriarch Theofilos III in 2005 Archimandrite Theodosios Hanna was appointed and ordained as Archbishop of Sebastia.
On June 27, 2015, Archbishop Hanna was arrested by Israeli forces as he partook in a march protesting Israel's alleged seizure of a Christian hospital, which is part of the al-Baraka Presbyterian church complex, north of Hebron; the move is seen as illegal under international law by the international community.
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