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Lebanon's Maronites split off from the Vatican centuries ago, then agreed to return to the fold, preserving to themselves rites, dogmas, and customs of their choice (don't tell a Maronite priest he can't marry!
) Much of the region either forcibly or voluntarily converted to Islam in the 7th and 8th centuries.
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” Christians have been in Iraq since the 2nd century—mostly Chaldeans, whose Catholicism remains deeply influenced by ancient, eastern rites, and Assyrians, who are not Catholic.
The war in Iraq since 2003 has ravaged all communities, Christians included.
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According to the Catholic News Agency, “In the last 40 years, the Christian population in the West Bank has slumped from about 20 percent of the total to less than two percent today.” Most Christians then and now are Palestinians.
The Christian presence in the Middle East dates back, of course, to Jesus Christ during the Roman Empire.
That 2,000-year presence has gone uninterrupted since, especially in the countries of the Levant: Lebanon, Palestine/Israel, Syria—and Egypt. The Eastern and Western Church don't quite see eye to eye--haven't for about 1,500 years.
In the Middle Ages, the European Crusades attempted, brutally, repeatedly but ultimately unsuccessfully, to restore Christian hegemony over the region.
Lebanon last conducted an official census in 1932, during the French Mandate.