Pope Visiting Holy Land Amidst Great Tensions

The trip by Pope Francis this week to the Holy Land will be met with great expectations by politicians and faithful alike.

The Pope arrives May 24 in Jordan, before heading to Israel and the West Bank for two days. The pope is scheduled to meet with a number of Christian families, religious and political leaders for the three monotheistic faiths.

The trip takes place during a time when the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians are idle and an environment that is politically charged has taken hold across the Holy Land.

There is also some bitterness as price tag attacks on Christians by Jewish extremists have escalated.

Over the past, the price-tag attacks had been carried out due to alleged retribution for removal of the outposts on the West Bank, which authorities in Israel deemed illegal.

Today, the attacks are perpetrated irrespective of actions by Israel.

Officially, Pope Francis arrives to meet the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I for the 50th anniversary that celebrates the Catholic-Orthodox Joint Declaration. During this historic visit in 1964 by their predecessors to Jerusalem, the agreement was made to end the schism in the two churches.

However, the number of Christians is shrinking and those here hope Pope Francis will deliver support through his message as more and more challenges arise for them.

In February, the Israelis passed a new law that designated Palestinian Christians as a minority group. That move received criticism from some leaders in religion saying it was an attempt to make a separation along religious lines of the Palestinians.

Last week hate graffiti was found on property owned by the Vatican in East Jerusalem. The graffiti said Death to Christians and Arabs and all the people that hate Israel.

The message had been written in Hebrew on property owned by the church during the same week close to 200 Orthodox Jews protested the planned visit by the pope to where it is believed that Jesus had his last supper.

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