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April 25, 2009April 25, 2009  2 comments  Pope Benedict XVI Visit to the Holy Land

The upcoming visit of Pope Benedict XVI is being planned at unprecedented speed. Normally a visit takes a year if not longer to plan. Speaking with Father Eunam Kelly, who oversees pilgrimage for the  Notre Dame Center in Jerusalem, I asked him why the Pope was coming here on such short notice.

 

He returned my question with "Do you have children?"

 

"Yes, I have 4" I answered.

 

"How old are they," he asked.

 

"They are 17, 14, 12, and 8, " I replied.

 

"Do you want to see them?", he asked.

 

"Of course", I answered,

 

 

"Well, the Holy Father wants to see his children too." he explained, "its that simple." he said.

 

He explained that this visit was pure and simple - the Pope wants to visit with the Christian communities of the Holy Land, the most significant of which are located in the Galilee, Jerusalem and in Bethlehem, situated just southeast of Jerusalem in the Palestinian Territories. The Christian population in the territories have been declining, particularly since the second intifada while in Israel, the Christian population as actually grown. Nevertheless, the Christian communitities are not strong economically, and the Vatican wants to do what it can to raise the awareness and further the interests of these communities. Israel's Christian population numbers approximately 140,000 people. Their demographic patterns including birthrate are similar to the local Jewish population, however, while the Jewish population has benefited from strong growth from immigration over the years, the Christian community growth has been limited to natural birth rates for the most part. As a result, their numbers as a percentage of the total population, have declined. In 1948, the Christian community totalled 34,000 and represented almost 3% of the total population of Israel, while in 2009,the Christian population, as a percent of Israel's total population, declined to just over 2.0 percent.


May 10, 2009May 10, 2009  0 comments  Pope Benedict XVI

The Vatican has described this trip as a "personal pilgrimage". Millions of people around the world will be watching the Pope visit many of Christianity's most famous holy sites including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Garden of Gethesamene, Kidron Valley, Church of the Nativity, Church of the Annunciation and the Mt of Precipice in Nazareth. Last week, Travelujah asked the Nuncio, H.E. Archbishop Antonio Franco what specific holy site did the Pope look most forward to seeing on his trip to Israel. Replied the Nuncio "the faces of all the people, that is his favorite site."

 

Despite all the discussion over where the Pope's itinerary will take him, one thing is for sure - this Pope "wants to see his children", according to Father Eunam Kelley. Despite all the discussion and curiousity regarding why this Papal visit was planned under short notice, if there is one objective that the Vatican has in planning this trip, it is to strengthen the Christian community both in Jordan, the Palestinian Territories and in Israel. by visiting his "children" and seeing the people, Pope Benedict XVI is hoping to instill hope and worldwide attention on this shrinking community of Christians.

 

The Israeli tourism industry is hoping that this upcoming visit will encourage Catholic tourism to Israel in much greater numbers. to that end, they've been lobbying the vatican in order to get the Pope to publically proclaim that all Christians should visit the Holy Land. Whether he does or doesn't the question is will his actions speak louder than words? Perhaps. As millions of people watch Pope Benedict step off Royal Jordanian Airlines tomorrow, the epic visit to Israel will begin to unfold. When asked why should Christians come to the Holy Land, Rafi Ben Hur, senior deputy tourism minister answered "Here, its a local call to God".


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