Vatican synod to mull Middle East Christian exodus
With Christianity dwindling in its Middle Eastern birthplace, Pope Benedict has convened Catholic bishops from the region to debate how to save its minority communities and promote harmony with their Muslim neighbours.
For two weeks starting on Sunday, the bishops will discuss problems for the faithful ranging from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and strife in Iraq to radical Islamism, economic crisis and the divisions among the region’s many Christian churches.
(Photo: Worshippers light candles after Mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Baghdad October 3, 2010/Mohammed Ameen)
They come from local churches affiliated with the Vatican, but the relentless exodus of all Christians — Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants — has prompted them to take a broad look at the challenges facing all followers of Jesus there.
While conditions for Christians vary from country to country, the overall picture is dramatic. Christians made up around 20 percent of the region’s population a century ago, but now account for about five percent and falling.
“If this phenomenon continues, Christianity in the Middle East will disappear,” said Rev. Samir Khalil Samir, a Beirut-based Egyptian Jesuit who helped draw up the working document for the October 10-24 synod at the Vatican.