Christian emigration shadows papal visit to Holy LandPublished 8:29am Friday, May 23, 2014
BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) — Pope Francis will arrive this weekend in the land where Christianity was born — and where Christians are disappearing.
This ancient community has dwindled to around 2 percent of the region’s population as economic hardship, violence and the bitter realities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have sent Christians searching for better opportunities overseas. The Christian exodus, under way for decades, has reached critical levels in recent years. Emigration is a central concern to local Vatican officials, who are trying to stave off the flight with offers of jobs, housing and scholarships.
“I am sad to think that maybe the time will come in which Christianity will disappear from this land,” said the Rev. Juan Solana, a Vatican envoy who oversees the Notre Dame center, a Jerusalem hotel for pilgrims that employs 150 locals, mostly Christians.