.- The Franciscan Custodians of the Holy Land are hoping to stem the exodus of Christians from the Holy Land with a project that will construct 70 new homes in Jerusalem for poor Christian families, the Fides news agency has reported.
The homes will be handed over on Palm Sunday, as part of the traditional Lenten Pilgrimage to the village of Bethpage, located on the eastern slopes of mount Har Ha-Zetim, near the Garden of Olives.
In the last forty years an increasing number of Christians have been motivated to leave the Holy Land due to poverty, insecurity, general restrictions, and a lack of work. The Franciscans hope the free homes will give them incentive to stay. In 1965, Christians made up 65 percent of the population in the Holy Land; today, they are less 12 percent.
Pope Benedict has also expressed particular concern regarding Christians in the Holy Land. At Christmas, the Holy Father addressed a special message to them, offering his prayers and echoing the concerns expressed by the bishops of the Middle East.
He also expressed his concern during a Feb. 1 meeting with members of the Commission for Catholic Orthodox Theological Dialogue.