“If we lose our roots, how can we be, wherever we are in the world, a tree that grows and bears fruits of love, charity and sharing?”
The Congregation for the Eastern Churches proposed that provocative question in a letter urging Catholics to give generously to the annual Holy Land Appeal.
All parishes around the world are asked to take up a special collection—usually on Good Friday—to help Christians in the land where Jesus was born, lived, died, and was resurrected.
Funds collected make up the main source of material support for Christian life in the Holy Land. Money goes toward preserving sacred places, assisting the region’s Christian minority, and forming candidates for the priesthood, as well as investing in the education of Palestinian Muslims to build “a country where mutual respect reigns.”
Concrete connection to Jesus’ homeland
Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, sent the appeal letter to local Churches around the world, offering a reflection on the deeper meaning of the Holy Land Collection.
“The gesture of offering, even a small one, but by everyone, like the widow’s mite, allows our brothers and sisters to continue to live, to hope, and to offer a living witness to the Word made flesh in places and on the streets that saw His presence.”
Cardinal Sandri noted that this year’s collection is particularly important, since Christians in the Holy Land have endured two years without “the warmth and solidarity of pilgrims visiting the Holy Places and local communities.”
Families, he added, have suffered immensely, mostly from lack of work linked to pilgrims.
Gesture of relief for suffering Christians
Christ, said the Cardinal, continues to suffer in His Body, which is the Church, especially in the Middle East, as well as in other parts of the world where persecution, violence, and wars persist, “as happens in Ukraine.”
Cardinal Sandri recalled that Pope Francis made two Apostolic Journeys to places assisted by the Custody of the Holy Land, which receives 65 percent of the Collection: Iraq in March and Cyprus in December.
The Pope, said the Cardinal, sought to reach out to many “lonely and suffering” Christians in Iraq, who have struggled to remain in the land of Abraham amid the pain of nearly two decades of war.
In response to the Holy Father’s gestures of closeness, Catholics everywhere are invited to extend their gaze of love toward the Holy Land and offer their own small gesture of relief, according to Cardinal Sandri.
Education for the future
The Congregation for the Eastern Churches also released a breakdown of last year’s Collection, which raised over US$6 million.
“The territories that benefit in various forms of support from the Collection are Jerusalem, Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Turkey, Iran, and Iraq.”
Education for laypeople and priestly formation are among the primary destinations for the 35 percent of the Collection destined for the Congregation for the Eastern Churches.
Bethlehem University perhaps deserves special mention, as the institution offers education that aims to help reconcile the religious and cultural differences that have marred life in the Holy Land for countless generations.
“Almost 3,300 young people, mostly Palestinian Muslims, are trained intellectually and humanly with the hope of engaging in the construction of a country where mutual respect reigns and where human dignity is preserved.”
Devin Watkins/ vaticannews.va