By Vatican News
Every year on Good Friday, a collection is taken up in Catholic Churches around the world to support the work of the Franciscans working in the Holy Land. However, this year due to the coronavirus pandemic measures in place throughout the world, many people could not attend Holy Week liturgies, causing the postponement of the collection.
In remarks after praying the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Francis reminded the faithful about the collection taking place today. He said that within the context the world is living, it is a "sign of hope and solidary nearness to the Christians who live in the land where God became man, died and rose for us." He continued saying that today, we can make a "spiritual pilgrimage", using our imaginations, a pilgrimage of the heart to Jerusalem. "And," he concluded, "we can accomplish a gesture of generosity for those communities."
The annual collection is one of the main sources of support for the mission of the Custody of the Holy Land and will now be taken up on Sunday 13 September near the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.
The collection is used for schools and to support Christians, creating job opportunities and providing them with a welcoming home. In this way, local Christians are helped to remain in this land, to live their faith with courage.
The Franciscan friars also work to preserve and maintain the Holy Sites where the Incarnate Lord lived during his earthy life, and to allow Christians from all parts of the world to come to these places to pray and revive their faith, and to be blessed by the stones and the earth that Jesus Christ touched.
In a statement in March announcing the postponement of the collection due to the pandemic, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, said the "Christian community in the Holy Land" is living the same crisis.
They rely on the "generous solidarity of the faithful around the world, so as to continue their evangelical presence".
Challenges from the pandemic
Speaking about the current situation since the outbreak of Covid-19, the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr Francesco Patton, OFM, told Vatican News’ Adriana Masotti that “unfortunately, since the beginning of the pandemic there are no pilgrims… we are a small minority here in the Holy Land and, in fact, we live thanks to the help and support of the whole world. And I repeat the pandemic has in a certain way cut off that normal relationship with Christians from around the world that comes about through pilgrimages.”
The Custos explained that because pilgrimages have suffered as a result of the pandemic, Christians who work in the hospitality and tourism sectors, as well as those who run gift shops that sell souvenirs in olive wood, have been hard hit by the present situation.
He expressed the hope that pilgrims would be able to return to the Holy Land soon, so that these Christian workers can return to their jobs.
The Lord loves a cheerful giver
Everyone is invited give what they can to Sunday’s collection either at Mass or in the form of an online bank transfer. Details can be found on the website of the Custody of the Holy Land.
Fr Patton said it was important people give according to their means, but also with a generosity of heart.
“It’s true the Lord loves a cheerful giver, and it’s also true, as is recalled in the Acts of the Apostles, that there’s more joy in giving than in receiving, he said.
This article was first published on 11 September, and updated on 13 September.