Ben Cramer reported on the dwindling number of pilgrims or visitors to the Holy Land in the March/April 2004 issue of the magazine. The violence in the region at the time kept pilgrims away and depressed Christians living in the region:
The crisis jeopardizes the region’s Christian communities in ways that go beyond economics. According to Christian leaders in the area, the absence of Christian pilgrims in the birthplace of their faith is having a troubling impact on local parishioners and even the hope for peace in the Middle East.
“Pilgrimage has almost totally stopped since 2000,” says Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah. “There are a few pilgrims coming here out of true conviction, but these are only small groups, primarily from Italy, France and Spain.”
Since this story ran in 2004, the number of pilgrimages to the Holy Land has increased. According to a January 2011 article from Independent Catholic News, “...the highest number of pilgrims went to Bethlehem for the Christmas celebrations since 2000. Up to 500 Christians from Gaza were also able to come to Bethlehem which was a considerable improvement...”
For more, check out Holy Land: increase in number of Christians returning home.
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