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Saturday, October 22, 2016
Holy Land: Franciscans build 70 new homes for poor Christians
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 During Lent this year, the Franciscan Custodians of the Holy Land are building 70 new homes in Jerusalem for poor Christian families living in ever more difficult conditions of persisting insecurity and conflict. The homes will be handed over on the occasion of the traditional Lenten Pilgrimage to a tiny village of Bethpage, on the eastern slopes of Mount Har Ha-Zetim, near the Garden of Olives. Here, in a small Franciscan church there is a block of stone said to stand on the place from which Jesus descended to make his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, recalled in the annual celebration of Palm Sunday. The new homes will give fresh hope to Christians inclined to emigrate because of poverty, insecurity, restrictions and lack of work. The Franciscan Custodians of the Holy Land wish in this way to help stop the haemorrhage of Christians to Europe or America. The problem was raised by Pope Benedict XVI when he met members of the Commission for Catholic Orthodox Theological Dialogue last week (as reported on ICN). He voiced deep concern for the difficult situation of Christians in the Holy Land, "in the midst of such a volatile geopolitical panorama" and how they "are often tempted to emigrate. In these circumstances, Christians of all traditions and communities in the Middle East are called to be courageous and steadfast in the power of the Spirit of Christ. May the intercession and example of the many martyrs and saints, who have given courageous witness to Christ in these lands, sustain and strengthen the Christian communities in their faith" the Pope concluded. At Christmas the Pope sent a special message to Christians in the Holy Land sharing the concern expressed by the Bishops of the Middle East. The ranciscan Custodians of the Holy Land have repeatedly denounced the impoverishment and hardship of the dwindling Christian community: in 1965 Christians were 65% of the population, today they are less 12%. Source: Fides
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