Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Vatican Fears for Future of Bethlehem's Christian Sites
The Times (UK) ^ | 11/9/02 | Stephen Farrell

Posted on 11/09/2002 6:57:19 PM PST by marshmallow

AN ARCHBISHOP from the Vatican arrived in Bethlehem yesterday on a mission to stem the flow of Christians leaving the Holy Land.

As welcome as the prayers offered up by Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes at the Church of the Nativity was the £250,000 that he brought from the Vatican charity Cor Unum, to improve life for the Palestinian Christian minority and persuade them to stay.

For many, it is already too late. In Manger Square, the Nativity bells echo off the locked metal shutters of the town’s closed souvenir shops, empty since the al-Aqsa intifada drove pilgrims away in September 2000.

At the al-Andaluz guesthouse, there is room at the inn, but no inn. It closed down months ago.

Christians have long been a beleaguered community in the Holy Land, where for hundreds of years they existed as dhimmis — tolerated minorities — under Islamic Arab and Turkish conquerors. Now they live under Israeli military rule. According to Father Amjad Sabbara, the Franciscan pastor of Bethlehem, the exodus has accelerated in the past 24 months as dozens have been driven out.

Economic hardship is the main factor, with many Christians dependent on tourism for their livelihood, including tour guides, the carvers of Bethlehem’s olive wood nativity scenes, and the owners of souvenir shops. “It is the middle classes, the intelligentsia, who are leaving because those are the families who have money and can afford visas,” he sighed. “They won’t come back. Those who left in 1967 did not come back.”

The prospect of losing more of an already dwindling Christian community — just 2 per cent of the general population, with the proportion having fallen to 13 per cent even in Bethlehem — has made the Vatican anxious about the future of Christianity’s holiest shrines. “It is understandable why there is a desire among many to leave the country,” a statement from Cor Unum said. “The safekeeping of holy sites, however, would be seriously put in danger if Christians abandoned them.”

Samir Hazboun, head of the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce, said that Palestinian Christians had been hit particularly hard, both by the collapse in tourism and by Israeli road closures that have sealed off West Bank towns. On average wealthier than their Muslim Arab neighbours, speaking English and with a large number of relatives overseas, Christians also found it easier to emigrate and find work abroad, he said.

“I myself have sent my three daughters to Prague. My wife and I are alone now and we feel bad, but we want them to have an education. If the situation continues, I will not allow them to come back.”

Iyad, a Greek Orthodox tour guide, is thinking of leaving. Sitting in his cousin’s deserted olive wood-carving workshop off Manger Square, he talked bitterly of “golden years” from 1993 to 1998, when the creation of a Palestinian Authority brought hundreds of thousands of tourists a year, followed by “diamond years” surrounding the Pope’s tour in 2000, which drew vast crowds.

With the Israeli far Right espousing the “transfer” of Arabs from the West Bank, some advocating force, others increasing economic and security pressures until they leave voluntarily, Iyad knows he is playing into their hands, but insists that he has no choice: “Do you think it is easy? I am a tour guide and I have not had a tour party in ten days. The last one was a Japanese tourist who thought he was in Nazareth and left when he found out where he was.”


TOPICS: Culture/Society
KEYWORDS:

1 posted on 11/09/2002 6:57:19 PM PST by marshmallow
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: marshmallow
Refresh my memory, is this the same Holy Vatican that peed it's pants when the Bethlehem site was invaded by terrorists a few months ago? The Vatican criticized the Isrealis instead of the monsters who took hostages, defiled the site and stole whatever treasures weren't bolted down. Sorry, Holy See, no credibility here.
2 posted on 11/09/2002 7:05:54 PM PST by moodyskeptic
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: marshmallow
Oh thank you we are saved theVATICAN is gettin' involved. (sarcasm off)Maybe if they can make a single intteligent statement concerning their priest protectors in the Northeast then graduate up to growing a conciense we can ALLOW then to stick their snauzolas into Irael' beezwax.
3 posted on 11/09/2002 7:11:09 PM PST by ping jockey
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: moodyskeptic
The Vatican criticized the Isrealis instead of the monsters who took hostages... no credibility here.

My thoughts, exactly. If the Vatican weren't so pro-Arab and anti-Israeli, it might need not fear any future backlash from a victorious Israel. Your example illustrates the situation perfectly...

4 posted on 11/09/2002 7:14:07 PM PST by Always A Marine
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: marshmallow
Y'know, I don't have a whole lot of sympathy for these "preservationist" types. What is really the big deal with the upkeep of these places? Even if the Church of the Nativity was reduced to a smoldering ember a few months back when all those Islamists where barricaded in it, wouldn't it still be "the holy place where Jesus was born?"
5 posted on 11/09/2002 7:17:37 PM PST by irksome1
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: moodyskeptic
Shhhh we can't criticize the Vatican on FR.
6 posted on 11/09/2002 7:28:25 PM PST by weikel
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Always A Marine
My thoughts, exactly. If the Vatican weren't so pro-Arab and anti-Israeli, it might need not fear any future backlash from a victorious Israel. Your example illustrates the situation perfectly...

I think we need to focus on the forest here... the Israelis are not the problem.

As far as I'm concerned there can never be a "Palestinian" or other Muslim state of any kind unless the Christian sites have foolproof permanent protection from that slimy religion.

7 posted on 11/09/2002 8:12:14 PM PST by Publius6961
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: marshmallow
Why does the vatican think it is thier job to keep believers in the Holy Land? Why do they care where Christians live? Lots of Palestanian, (or Arab if you prefer) Christians are moving to the States.


Also, why do they care so much about buildings ("holy sites/shrines") Isn't it thier job to shepherd the flock and to be ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Hmm: stressing over buildings...vs...preaching the TRUTH to the lost. (sarcasm off)Seems priorities are fuzzy here.
8 posted on 11/09/2002 8:53:51 PM PST by Gal.5:1
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: All
Why is the Vatican always trying to interfere in the affairs of foreign states? Can't they concentrate on their own house? I mean, with all the homo problems they have with their own clergy, shouldn't they remove the beam from their own eye before they try to remove the splinter in Israel's? Gimme a break!!!
9 posted on 11/09/2002 10:09:05 PM PST by Malcolm
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: marshmallow; Siobhan; NYer; SMEDLEYBUTLER; JMJ333; sitetest; Catholicguy; EODGUY; Polycarp
Ping!
10 posted on 11/09/2002 10:14:27 PM PST by Salvation
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Salvation
BUMP
11 posted on 11/10/2002 7:25:59 AM PST by Siobhan
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: Salvation
I fail to understand how so many self-righteous individuals can accept Christ as their savior, yet continue to bash their fellow christians. Jesus gave us the two greatest commandments:

To love God with all your heart, and

To love your neighbor as yourself.

Thanks for the ping ... it's another reminder of the prejudice against catholics that persists on this conservative forum.

12 posted on 11/10/2002 12:41:51 PM PST by NYer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: NYer
God also gave us a brain, and believers the Holy Spirit, and the Word of God to compare the words/teachings and actions of others with.
13 posted on 11/10/2002 7:45:41 PM PST by Gal.5:1
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 12 | View Replies]

To: Gal.5:1
You just made my point!
14 posted on 11/11/2002 12:13:17 AM PST by NYer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 13 | View Replies]

To: marshmallow
The shame of it is, Muslims would destroy Christian sites if they could and Jews don't much care for Christianity because they perceive it as a threat to Judaism. I guess Christians will just have to wait for the Second Coming.
15 posted on 11/11/2002 12:48:54 AM PST by Contra
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: NYer
So be it. :)
16 posted on 11/11/2002 9:57:37 AM PST by Gal.5:1
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 14 | View Replies]

To: ping jockey
Wow, bringing up priest molestors on a thread on a thread about Holy Land Christian sites. They're really connected. There are plenty of threads that are on-topic for your swill, hater.
17 posted on 11/11/2002 7:16:41 PM PST by Conservative til I die
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: Gal.5:1
Gee, I couldn't tell you were a Fundamentalist drone from this post. Try to be a little more subtle next time, Swaggart.
18 posted on 11/11/2002 7:17:47 PM PST by Conservative til I die
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

Comment #19 Removed by Moderator

To: Conservative til I die
point well taken.
20 posted on 11/12/2002 3:45:42 PM PST by ping jockey
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 17 | View Replies]

To: Always A Marine
I agree -- I cannot understand why the Vatican is anti-Israel... I've even seen it on this forum (anti-Israel rhetoric) from fellow Catholics -- it really is putrid.
21 posted on 11/12/2002 8:15:19 PM PST by oline
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

Comment #22 Removed by Moderator

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson