Archbishop Notes Decline in Christian Population

Oct 28, 2002 03:00 AM EST

PUERTO RICO—In his latest visit to Israel, San Juan’s archbishop, Roberto Gonzalez Nieves noted a 60 percent decline of Christians living in Israel because of marginalization by the Israeli government.

Gonzalez blamed religious prejudice and Israel’s political situation for the “extirpation of the Christian presence in the Holy Land.?During his trip, the archbishop observed "a lot of fear, an enormous desolation, an urgent need, profound pain over a war without a pretext for peace in the short term."

Two years ago, statistics showed that about 130,000 Christians lived in Israel, making up 2.1 percent of the total population. An additional 50,000 Christians live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. While the total number of Christians in the Holy Land has increased slightly from 143,000 in 1947, their percentage of the total population has dropped from 7 percent then to just over 2 percent.

Only a minority of Holy Land Christians are Roman Catholic?an estimated 60,000 Catholics total live in Israel, the Palestinian areas, Jordan and Cyprus.Emigration and low birth rates have also contributed to the decline.

By Pauline J.