In Bethlehem, Rosaries Are an Economic Lifeline

A Means of Sustenance for Families

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KOENIGSTEIN, Germany, MAY 26, 2005 ( Christians in Bethlehem are pursuing an ambitious goal of making a rosary for everyone attending World Youth Day in Cologne this summer.

To help make the goal a reality, Aid to the Church in Need, the Germany-based international charity, has pledged more than 20,000 euros to ship tens of thousands of olive wood rosaries from Bethlehem to Cologne, where Catholic youth worldwide with gather in August with the Pope.

«The rosaries are being made by families in Bethlehem that are facing poverty because the tourists, on whom they depend for their livelihood, have all but vanished,» the group said in a statement sent to ZENIT on Wednesday.

«Pilgrimages have dwindled since unrest broke out in the West Bank, and even now that a semblance of peace has been restored, few tourists are venturing inside the Israel-built walls encasing towns and cities like Bethlehem,» it added.

«All this spells disaster for the many families that have given over the entire ground floor of their homes to produce rosaries while they live in often very deprived circumstances upstairs,» reported Aid to the Church in Need.

By a thread

During a recent trip, officials of the charity studied firsthand the assistance the organization can offer Christians in the Holy Land. The information gathered was made into a report entitled «Israel: Christians in Crisis — Faithful Under Pressure From All Sides.»

The report stated that a «combination of poverty, discrimination and violence» makes the future of Christianity in the Holy Land «hang by a thread.»

The idea of the rosary program came from Father Don Moore, an American based in Jerusalem, who decided to act after being shocked by the suffering of the families left penniless by the collapse of the rosary business.

The priest, who is director of interfaith relations at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Jerusalem, stressed that, if successful, the rosary project would be «an enormous boost» to the Christians in the Holy Land.

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