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Here is an article that was shared with us this morning, written by Sandro Magister of Chiesa, which highlights one of the great concerns of both Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, namely the flight of Christians from the Holy Lands and the Middle East. Mr. Magister, in a few short pages, manages to tell the real story of a Christian Nightmare in the midst of an Arab Spring.
What Remains of the Christians of the East
by Sandro Magister
ROME, February 11, 2014 – Behind the scenes preparations are in full swing for the voyage of Pope Francis to the Holy Land, scheduled for May 24-26.
When half a century ago Pope VI went to Jerusalem – the first pope in history to do do so – almost all of the holy places of the city were within the boundaries of the kingdom of Jordan. And so was much of Judea and the valley of the Jordan. There were many Christians there, and in some places, like Bethlehem, they were in a clear majority. In the minds of many Catholics in the West – like the mayor of Florence Giorgio La Pira, now on his way toward the honors of the altar – there shone the utopia of a messianic peace near at hand that would make brothers of Christians, Jews, and Arabs.
Against this background and in this climate, the voyage of Paul VI was an event of great resonance. In the old city of Jerusalem the Arab crowd clasped the pope in a strenuous embrace, at times lifting him from the ground. And also at his return to Rome an interminable crowd flanked the pope as he reentered to the Vatican.
That climate no longer exists. The geopolitics of the Middle East has changed completely. There is no peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Lebanon has been ravaged by a civil war. Syria is on the point of collapse. Iraq is devastated. Egypt is exploding. Millions of refugees are fleeing from one region to another.
And Christians are feeling the bite most. Their exodus from Middle Eastern countries is incessant, not compensated for by the precarious immigration into rich countries of the Gulf by manual laborers coming from Asia.
Vatican secretary of state Pietro Parolin stated in this regard during his first wide-ranging interview after his appointment, in “Avvenire” of February 9:
“The situation of Christians in the Middle East is one of the great preoccupations of the Holy See, about which it is not cease to sensitize those who have political responsibilities, because peaceful coexistence in that region and in the whole world is at stake.”
And he added, referring to the presence in the Middle East of Christians belonging to different confessions and implicitly to the meeting that Pope Francis will hold in Jerusalem with the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, half a century after the embrace between Paul VI and Athenagoras:
“This is indeed an area of particular significance at the ecumenical level, since Christians are able to seek and find common ways to help their brothers in the faith who suffer in various parts of the world.”
But how many Christians live in the Holy Land and the surrounding region, and who are they?
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