AMMAN - Pope Francis arrives in Jordan on Saturday to start an intense three-day trip to the Middle East, bringing hope to the dwindling Christian population and an appeal to members of all religions to work together for peace.
"This is not a protocol visit," Patriarch Louis Sako, Iraq's senior Churchman, told reporters in Amman on the eve of the visit.
"This pope feels the pain of Christians and his arrival at this time as peoples of this region are going through conflict, killings and destruction is a message of common living. It's an appeal that everyone in this region should have the courage to review their positions, to get out of this suffocating crisis," he said.
The Christian population has been declining steadily across the Middle East for generations. The Arab revolts of the recent years, the civil war in Syria, and the rise of radical Islam are only accelerating the process.