VATICAN CITY – The Holy Father received on Monday, April 15, 2013, His Beatitude Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and his delegation made up of his Vicars for Israel, Jerusalem and Palestine, Jordan and the Hebrew speaking community. The new Archbishop of Tunis and some priests were also received by Pope Francis.
This meeting was above all the opportunity for the Patriarch and the delegation to reaffirm communion with the new successor of St. Peter and with the universal Church, bringing the prayers of the faithful of the Holy Land to the new Pope. The Patriarchal delegation also asked Pope Francis to pray for the Holy Land so that the Christians who live there can continue to live in the places where Jesus lived.
The Patriarch presented the Church of the Holy Land, and he also described the daily reality of the “little flock,” the local Christian community. Vatican Radio echoed this meeting stressing that: peace in the Middle East, the situation of Christians in the region, the Syrian crisis and the growing number of Syrian refugees in neighboring countries (including Jordan) were the main themes of the Patriarch’s meeting with the Holy Father. In an interview with Vatican Radio, the Patriarch spoke of having had the good impression of speaking with “a brother”, considering him a “humble” man and “who has the gift of listening, and does not pretend to know everything.” The Patriarch again expressed his hope to see Pope Francis come to the land of salvation, confident that he will continue the diplomatic efforts of his predecessors to ensure that peace and justice come to Jerusalem. At the end of the meeting the Pope did joined the entire delegation for lunch at the Casa Santa Marta. The members of the Patriarchal delegation upon their return to the Holy Land will surely take with them the firm intention of telling their faithful, “the great love of the Pope for the Church that lives and prays in the places where Jesus Christ lived.”
Number of Christians halved since 2000
It is a message that resonates as an encouragement that comes from the heart and that comes at the right time to comfort the faithful of the Holy Land who have just learned from a study that the percentage of Christians in Palestine is now half of what it was 13 years ago, from 2 to 1 % between 2000 and 2013. Moreover Jerusalem, which had 27,000 Christians in 1948, saw their numbers decrease to almost 5,000. This is what the study of Professor Hanna Issa sent to Fides reveals. The author is a Palestinian Christian, a professor of international law and general secretary of the Christian-Muslim Committee for the protection of Jerusalem and the holy places. The decrease is largely due to the migration and of population growth rates much lower than those in the Muslim population.The study by Professor Issa indicates, according to Fides that, currently, Christians in the Palestinian Territories are 47,000 while 110,000 live in regions where the State of Israel was formed in 1948.