NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Pope Francis is heading to the Holy Land for the first time since becoming leader of the Roman Catholic Church.
As CBS 2’s Dick Brennan reported, from Jordan, to the streets of Old Jerusalem, and a refugee camp in the West Bank, final preparations are being made for Pope Francis’s historic three-day pilgrimage.
Some Israeli children told Brennan they are excited about the pope’s visit. They’re learning Aramaic, the ancient language Jesus spoke.
“Because it’s the language of Jesus and I like to speak and learn languages,” said one boy.
Shady Khalloul, director of the Aramaic Center, is trying to revive the language. He taught himself Aramaic and lobbied the government to add it to the curriculum.
Now, he’s hoping the pope will add Aramaic to the list of eight languages he speaks.
“We hope he will come here and see these kids speaking in Jesus’ language and say I need to learn this language as well!” said Khalloul.
While there’s a push to keep the language Jesus spoke alive, fewer Christians are living in the area. The West Bank village of Taybeh is one the last all-Christian villages in the Holy Land.
Taybeh, according to the bible, is where Jesus stayed before his crucifixion.
But the Christian population in the town is dwindling. Across Israel and the Palestinian territories it’s down to just two percent.
People in the area said they hope Pope Francis’s visit will inspire Christians to stop their exodus from the Holy Land.
Some blame the Christian exodus on intolerance from Muslims, which intensified after the Arab Spring. Others say Palestinian Christians are frustrated with Israeli control of land and a lack of jobs, Brennan reported.
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