JERUSALEM (CNS): Pope Benedict XVI encouraged the “little flock” of Christians in the Holy Land to persevere as a vital presence in society and a witness to unity in the troubled region.
The Pope met with the bishops of the Holy Land on May 12 in the chapel of the Cenacle, which tradition says is the “upper room” of Jesus’ Last Supper and the place where the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles at Pentecost.
He sought to bring energy and hope to a flock that has decreased drastically.
Over the past 40 years, the Christian population in the Holy Land has gone from about 20 per cent of the population to about two per cent.
In a speech, the Pope said one key element for the Church’s future was an effort to build unity among its various branches.
The Christian presence in the Holy Land, he said, was of “vital importance for the good of society as a whole”.
The Church, though small in numbers, can act as a leaven in society, transforming hearts and shaping actions, and promoting a “climate of peace in diversity”.
The Pope said the Church must avoid the temptation to “turn in upon ourselves in selfishness or indolence, isolation, prejudice or fear”.
It should carry out its mission in the Holy Land with frankness and courage, he said.
The Pope commended the bishops for setting up assistance programs for local Catholics, and told them they could also count on his support.
The Holy See co-ordinates funding for hundreds of projects and programs for the people in the region.