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Rome Reports

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The Future Of Christians In The Middle East

That?s according to Monsignor Robert Stern, the president of the Pontifical Mission for Palestine and leader of the CNEWA, the papal arm for humanitarian support in the Middle East. Mons. Robert L. SternPresident, Pontifical Mission for Palestine Secretary General, CNEWA In Islam they are considered People of the Book, Christian and Jews, and therefore they are respected as frontrunners of Islam but not fully conforming to the Will of God. And they are second class citizens, and they have a unique status. And in Israel of course, in a Jewish state, if you are not a Jew, even though it?s a democratic society, in fact they are second class citizens as well.During a meeting of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, mons. Stern pointed out that due to the exodus of Christians from all over the Middle East, their numbers might drop from about 13 million to 6 million during the next 15 years. Mons. Robert L. SternPresident, Pontifical Mission for Palestine In Israel maybe 2% of the population is Christian, in the Palestinian Territories is 1%.... Egypt is at least a big country there?s probably 10%, or close to that in Syria as well. But it used to be, if you go back to history, 100%! So, what we are really seeing over the centuries is an accelerating movement of Christians away from that part of the world. And rapidly accelerating in modern times and in the last few generations.For more than a thousand years, the Vatican has supported these Christian minorities with particular interest: living stones of the Holy Places. Mons. Robert L. SternPresident, Pontifical Mission for Palestine I feel that the Christians can be a sort of bridge: because in most of the countries there are Arabs, but there are not Muslims, and they can be a connection between the modern societies of the Western world, and the emerging societies, so to speak into modern terms, in the Islamic world, because there are Arabs and there are Christians. ; And of course they bring a point of view: some of the teachings of Jesus, that are badly needed in that part of the world: things like the freedom of conscience and religion, things like reconciliation and forgiveness, these are rooted in the teachings of the Lord. The Vatican is doing its best to ensure that Christians in their own land can survive. But there?s more awareness that nobody can stop them from looking for a better future in Europe or America for their families and children.Mons. Robert L. SternPresident, Pontifical Mission for Palestine I think one of the challenges is to facilitate the movements of people, to facilitate the immigration, to be more generous in accepting new comers, to assist resettlement of Middle Eastern people in Western countries: this is a big and a very touching political point.And there are great expectations for the upcoming visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the Holy Land next year. Mons. Robert L. SternPresident, Pontifical Mission for Palestine Well, it?s a great shot in the arm for them! It?s exciting because when the Pope comes, the whole world follows him. I was there when Pope John Paul II came: in that moment everybody in the Holy Land, Muslim, Jew, Christians, everybody spent the whole day watching this white little man in a white robe praying and talking and offering Masses, visiting people and it was a moment of peace in the midst of the storm...I hope that pope Benedict will be the same: he?s Pontifex, the bridge-builder, I hope he?s very pontifical when he?s there, I hope that his presence, his words and his prayer will bridge these terrible gaps between groups, religion and politics. It?s a challenge which will be the result of a tremendous diplomatic effort between the State of Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the Vatican.