Christians Full of Hope as Pope Heads to Holy Land

Residents of Jerusalem and Bethlehem await Pope Francis' arrival with hope, and a dash of apathy.

. "My father's name is Francis, my son’s name is Francis and we named our store St. Francis," says Alfred Ra’ad outside his shop in the Old City of Jerusalem. "And now we are proud we carry the same name of Pope Francis.

"I have hopes in him that he will change the system of the church and eliminate the past mistakes. And we hope he will help the Christians of the Holy Land," the 55-year-old adds. "We are a minority and we are collapsing and suffering a lot and nobody cares about us. We need his help."

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. “We think the pope's visit will bring to the country and to the city a lot of people, and for us as shop owners this can only be good," say George Sandrouni as he stands in the doorway of his Armenian pottery shop in the Old City of Jerusalem.

"As a Christian I’m excited, but as a resident of Jerusalem I’m expecting to be hassled by all the security surrounding such a visit, which means that it won't be easy to move around," the 50-year-old adds. "So the only thing that overshadows my excitement is the security hassle."

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. Shop owner Claire Anastas stands next to the Israeli separation wall, which surrounds her family's Bethlehem house on three sides.

Once-beautiful views of the West Bank's rolling hills have given way to a 30-foot gray concrete wall and military outpost, she says.

“I heard this pope is a great pope,” Anastas says. ”I believe that if I bring him to my house and to look at this ugly wall then he will help us."

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. Two men walk past a banner welcoming Pope Francis in the Old City of Jerusalem.

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. "I’m not really excited since this is not the first and not the last pope to visit," said Wajeeh Nuseibeh, a Muslim who guards the entrance at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. "There is plenty of organization, work and security. He is like any important person that comes and visits the holy places."

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. Sisters Martha (right) and Sister Cecilia walk through the Old City of Jerusalem.

“We are very happy the pope is coming since both me and him are from Argentina," says Sister Martha. "We are very excited and hope he will come to make peace for everyone. We need peace in the world, but especially here. The pope is a very open person who speaks to everyone and is friendly with the Jewish people."

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. “We hope the pope's visit will help our difficult situation," says 82-year-old Emanuel Asfour, who was born and now lives in the Old City. "The situation is bad because of the occupation and we Christians are a minority here in the Holy Land.

"The pope is a man of peace and I would like to meet him and say hello and to be close to him since a pope is like Jesus on the ground here," he adds.

- Paul Goldman

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