Benedict will find Christian ranks thinning on Holy Land trip

When Pope Benedict XVI makes his first pastoral visit to the Holy Land May 8-15, he will find in the land where Jesus lived a hodgepodge of Christian communities. Latin and Oriental-rite Catholics and Orthodox Christians are the most numerous, and a smattering of Protestants and newer Christian churches round the numbers out.

But Christians have long been a minority in the lands where the first Christian churches were founded. And they grow less by the day.

For an excellent overview of the situation in the Middle East and some of the challenges Christian communities face daily that the pope will see first hand, read  “Middle East Christians on the Move,” by Msgr. Robert L. Stern, president of the Pontifical Mission for Palestine and Grand Officer of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. It was published in the January issue of One magazine, the chief publication of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association.

Msgr. Stern takes a frank look at the trials of Christians in the Holy Land but, like Pope Benedict, he has a lot of hope for their future.

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