By Francesca Merlo, updated by Sr Bernadette Reis, fsp
Cardinal Leonardi Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, has announced the postponement the annual Good Friday collection for the Holy Land to 13 September. The postponement was made public on Thursday, 2 April, in a statement released by the same Congregation. The statement says that Pope Francis "approved the proposal" that the collection be moved to Sunday, 13 September, "near the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross".
It is due to the "current Covid-19 pandemic" that the collection has been postponed. The measures taken to prevent its spread "impede the normal communal celebration of the Holy Week Liturgies", the statement says.
The statement continues saying that the "Christian community in the Holy Land" are living the same crisis. They rely on the "generous solidarity of the faithful around the world, so as to continue their evangelical presence". This includes schools, and centres offering care for the poor and other forms of charitable assistance.
The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is particularly connected with Jerusalem, the statement concludes. In both the East and the West, the Feast commemorates the retrieval of the relic of the cross by St. Helen and "the beinning of the public cult in Jerusalem with the construction of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre". The statement ends saying:
"It will be a sign of refound hope and of salvation after the Passion that many people now participate in, as well as solidarity with those who continue to live the Gospel of Jesus in the Land where 'it all began' ".
Letter promoting the collection
At the beginning of March, Cardinal Sandri issued a letter promoting the collection in favour of the Holy Land by quoting Blaise Pascal’s Pensées: “Jesus will be in agony even to the end of the world; we must not sleep during that time”. This phrase, explains Cardinal Sandri, “reminds us of the mystery of the Redeemer’s struggle and suffering, which the liturgical year celebrates and makes present in a special way through Holy Week and the Holy Triduum”.
Recalling Pope Francis’ prayer at the end of the Way of the Cross in the Colosseum on Good Friday 2019, Cardinal Sandri says it “reviews the evils and pains of the world and places them beside the Cross of Jesus”.
Cardinal Sandri explains that the Holy Land is the “physical place where Jesus lived this agony and suffering”, which He then transformed into redemptive action thanks to infinite love. It was in Gethsemane, he continues, that “this land receives the drops of blood that He sweats”. Along the Via Dolorosa, we can still imagine “the places of the double trial and condemnation of Jesus”, he adds.
“The Holy Land and especially the Christian community that lives there has always occupied an important place in the heart of the universal Church” writes Cardinal Sandri. Recalling the words of St Paul, Cardinal Sandri explains that when the Church expresses her solidarity with Jerusalem, “including through economic support”, she performs an act of restitution.
Cardinal Sandri goes on to mention the “severe trials that the Church in the Holy Land and throughout the Middle East has endured over the centuries”. Those trials are not yet finished, he says.
“Long and exhausting wars continue to produce millions of refugees and strongly influence the future of entire generations. They see themselves deprived of the most basic goods such as the right to a peaceful childhood, to a harmonious school education, to dedicating one’s youth to looking for a job and forming a family, to discovering one’s vocation, to an industrious and dignified adult life, and to a peaceful old age”.
Cardinal Sandri says that the Church continues to work to safeguard the Christian presence and “to give voice to the voiceless”. He adds that she does so “certainly” on the pastoral and liturgical level, whilst continuing to “work seriously to provide quality education through schools, which are fundamental for safeguarding Christian identity and for building fraternal coexistence”.
“Thanks to the generosity of the faithful around the world, the Church continues to make accommodation available to young people who wish to form a new family, as well as to facilitate their search for employment. Likewise, she continues to provide concrete material assistance where there are forms of endemic poverty, such as health needs and humanitarian emergencies linked to the flow of refugees and foreign migrant workers.”
Cardinal Sandri concludes by expressing that the care of the sanctuaries is only possible thanks to the collection ‘Pro Terra Sancta’. These sanctuaries, he says “preserve the memory of divine revelation, the mystery of the Incarnation and our Redemption” and offer to the Christian community, "the foundation of its identity".
This article was updated on 2 April 2020