The Fast Growing de-Christianization of the Middle East

Pope Benedict has called bishops to a two-week Vatican synod from Oct. 10 to discuss the fate of Christian minorities in the Middle East, where some face conflict, discrimination, economic woes or sectarian tensions.

With emigration rife, Christian communities have dwindled in many parts of the region where their faith was born. Here are estimates of how many still live in Middle Eastern countries:

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Turkey — 85,000 Christians (about 0.2% of the population), of which 20,000 Catholics of the Armenian, Syrian and Chaldean churches.

Lebanon — 1.5 million Christians (about 35 percent of the population), of which about two-thirds are Catholics of the Maronite, Greek Melkite, Syrian and Armenian churches.

Israel — 150,000 Christians (about 2% of the population), of which 85,000 Catholics of the Roman and Greek Melkite churches.

Palestinian territories — 50,000 Christians (about 0.8% of the population), of which 17,000 Roman Catholics.

Egypt — 8 million Christians (about 10% of the population), of which 250,000 Coptic Catholics.

Jordan — 150,000 Christians (about 2.4% of the population), majority Greek Orthodox, but some Greek and Roman Catholics, Syrian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox and Protestants.

Syria — 850,000 Christians (about 4.5% of the population), of which about 400,000 Catholics of the Syrian, Greek Melkite, Maronite, Chaldean and Armenian churches.

Iraq — 850,000 Christians (about 3% of the population), of which 400,000 Catholics, mostly of the Chaldean and Syrian churches. Many Christians have fled the country or have been displaced internally since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Iran — 135,000 Christians (about 0.3% of the population), of which 20,000 Catholics, mostly Chaldeans.

Note: The churches listed here are in communion with the Roman Catholic Church. They are the Coptic Catholic Church, the Syrian Catholic Church, the Maronite Church, the Chaldean Catholic Church, the Melkite Greek Catholic Church and the Armenian Catholic Church. The Roman Catholic Church is also present under the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Among the other Christians, most belong to Orthodox Churches. There are also small Protestant communities throughout the region.

Sources: L’Oeuvre d’Orient, Catholic Hierarchy, CIA World Fact Book, U.S. State Department International Religious Freedom Report, Reuters (Compiled by Tom Heneghan, editing by Alistair Lyon)


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