By Philippa Hitchen
The annual Good Friday collection for the Holy Land was launched on Monday, with an appeal for funds to support the people and places in the lands where Jesus lived.
Catholic Churches in countries around the globe have traditionally made a special collection in Lent, with the money being used for restoration and upkeep of the holy sites, care of pilgrims, and assistance to needy Christian families throughout the region.
Franciscan Custody in charge of holy sites
Most of the money from the collection is managed by the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, which has been in charge of the conservation of the holy sites in the Middle East for the past eight centuries. A part of the funds is also distributed by the Vatican’s Congregation for Oriental Churches, largely for the formation and support of local clergy.
In a letter accompanying the launch, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation, described the Lenten season as “an itinerary of solidarity”, during which we are called “to pause and, like the Good Samaritan, accompany our brethren who for many reasons find it difficult to stand up and continue their journey”.
Recent restorations in Bethlehem and Jerusalem
He noted that both the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem have been recently restored, “thanks to the collaboration and the generosity of so many persons of good will”.
He also praised the work of the Catholic community in the Holy Land, represented by its many different Eastern Rite Churches, that continue to show “a preferential attention to the poor” despite the many challenges and insecurities they face.
Support for Syrian and Iraqi refugees
Cardinal Sandri recalled the vital role of Catholic schools, which “serve as a place of encounter” for Christians and Muslims, as well as the hospitals and clinics, the hospices and other parish centres which continue to welcome the suffering, the refugees and all those fleeing from war.
Money raised by the Good Friday collection traditionally goes to support projects and communities throughout Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Turkey, Iran and Iraq.
In his letter, Cardinal Sandri appealed especially for financial support for Christian families and young people who have fled from the fighting in Syria and Iraq. Most of them, he said, want to return to their own land, where their houses, schools, hospitals and churches have been devastated. “Let us not leave them alone”, he urged.