It’s a face that is increasingly diverse, and foreign-born, according to his report from the AP:
The schedules for Mass at the two Roman Catholic churches in Jaffa, on Israel’s Mediterranean coast, reveal a change that has dramatically, if quietly, altered the face of Christianity in the Holy Land.
The two Masses in Arabic for the town’s native Arab Christian population are outnumbered by four in English, attended mainly by Filipina caregivers. Then there are others in Spanish, for South Americans; French, for African migrants; three South Asian languages, including Konkani, spoken in the Indian district of Goa; and, for a generation of Christians raised among Israel’s Jewish majority, Hebrew.
In September, a colorful celebration for Indian Catholics alone drew 2,000 people. That’s twice the total number of native Catholics in the parish.
For centuries, Christianity here meant the ancient communities of Christian Arabs. They were here when Israel was created around them in 1948, and they have kept their distinct identity within the Jewish state since. The past two decades, however, have seen one of the most significant influxes of Christians into the Holy Land since the Crusades, and it has created a wholly new Christian landscape shaped by the realities of Israel.
The newcomers include guest workers from dozens of different countries who provide the economy with cheap labor, and asylum-seekers from Sudan, Eritrea and elsewhere in Africa who sneak across the border from Egypt. And for the first time, there is a significant population of non-Arab Christian Israeli citizens, mainly immigrants from the former Soviet Union who, unlike Arabs, are fully assimilated into the Jewish Israeli mainstream.
Their presence has created new challenges for local churches that are simultaneously, like churches across the Mideast, facing the uncertain future of their local flocks.