Connecting with Christians in the Holy Land

Matthew Harrison

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

As Pope Benedict prepares for his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, beginning this Friday, the Vatican Information Service has released some statistics on the Catholic Church in Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian Territories. The information is from December 31st, 2007.
  • Jordan has a population of 5,720,000 of whom 109,000 (1.91 percent) are Catholic. There are three ecclesiastical circumscriptions and sixty-four parishes. Currently, there are four bishops, 103 priests and 258 religious. Major seminarians number seven.
  • A total of 30,595 students attend the 123 infant, primary, middle and secondary schools that belong to the Catholic Church or are run by priests or religious. Other institutions belonging to the Church or run by priests or religious in Jordan include two hospitals, one clinic, one family counselling centre, and three centres for education and social rehabilitation.
  • Israel and the Palestinian Territories have a population of 7,180,000 of whom 130,000 (1.81 percent) are Catholic. There are nine ecclesiastical circumscriptions, seventy-eight parishes and three pastoral centres of other kinds. Currently, there are eleven bishops, 406 priests, 1,171 religious and one lay missionary. Minor seminarians number fourteen and major seminarians 110.
  • A total of 43,876 students attend 192 centres of Catholic education, from kindergartens to universities. Other institutions belonging to the Church or run by priests or religious in Israel and the Palestinian Territories include eleven hospitals, ten clinics, nine homes for the elderly or disabled, eleven orphanages and nurseries, four centres for education and social rehabilitation, and two institutions of other kinds.
The number of Christians are small, but this is the land that our Lord lived in, walked in, taught in... this is where Christianity was born! It's an important land, a beautiful land, just as the people there are an important link to not only our past, but our present.
A few weeks back, Fr. Rosica interviewed Bethlehem University's Brother Peter Bray, FSC, and Brother Jack Curran, FSC for Witness (to be broadcast May 17th). He asked what can we, in Canada, do for the people in the Holy Land? Both Brothers emphasized the importance of praying for the people of the Holy Land. They also encouraged pilgrimages, so that people can see the Holy Land first hand. In these ways of support, we send the message to Christians in the Holy Land that they are not an isolated group, but that they are connected with the Universal Church. Those two comments were similar to a conversation I had with the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Archbishop Fouad Twal when I visited the Holy Land last November. He was very candid, sharing his thoughts on peace and the exodus of Christians in the region. You can read about our conversation HERE.

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