Pope worries about Christians abandoning ancient communities in Middle East

Pope Benedict XVI urged his bishops Friday to support Christians seeking to remain in the Middle East despite violence and other problems, expressing worry that the ancient communities will become a mere "archaeological site" without Christian life. He received Roman Catholic bishops from the region and raised the problem of a Christian exodus from the Holy Land and elsewhere in the Middle East because of war and economic difficulties. Benedict said he understood why people leave but that the bishops must "encourage and firmly support" those Christians who choose to remain or risk that the communities become "an archaeological site deprived of religious life."