Thousands of pilgrims in Bethlehem for Christmas. But life remains difficult for Christians | Persecution

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Thousands of pilgrims in Bethlehem for Christmas. But life remains difficult for Christians

Thousands of pilgrims in Bethlehem for Christmas. But life remains difficult for Christians

ICC Note

Thousands of tourists are flocking to the city of Bethlehem to celebrate Christmas. At the same time, persecution and other factors are driving out thousands of Christian residents from the city.

12/17/2008 Palestine (Asia News)-“The fact that this year so many pilgrims will join us for the Christmas liturgies is a sign that makes us even more sure that we are not the only ones seeking Jesus.” Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Custodian of the Holy Land , comments on the boom of pilgrimages for the Christmas holidays.

Batarseh says that he hopes the revival of the economy will convince the inhabitants of the city to stay, reversing the tendency that in recent years has seen the Christian population in particular leave. Data show that 40% of the 32,000 inhabitants of the city are Christian, and the rest are Muslim. But from 1950 until today, the presence of Christians has fallen by 90%.

The news of the pope’s visit to the Holy Land , scheduled for May, is already on everyone’s lips. The Custodian says that as soon as the first reports surfaced in the media, expectation among the members of the Christian community began to grow. The hope of being able to welcome Benedict XVI is strong.

“Sustaining hope,” Fr. Pizzaballa says, “is the biggest task in the situation in which we find ourselves. For this reason as well, the message for Christmas ends with the affirmation: ‘There is still hope for everyone!'” The Custodian explains that “this is an appeal above all for the Christians of the Holy Land . In Bethlehem , their numbers continue to drop, and they suffer the frustration and difficulty of the conditions in which they live. With the wishes for Christmas, I want to recall that the miracle that is taking place is an invitation, in spite of everything, to renew ourselves and our zeal. The fact that this year so many pilgrims will join us for the Christmas liturgies is a sign that makes us even more sure that we are not the only ones seeking Jesus.”

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