A special collection will be taken on Good Friday to support Christians in the Holy Land in Catholic churches throughout the world.
In an interview with EWTN, Vatican Cardinal Leonardo Sandri said that the Good Friday Collection is a moment for all Catholics to be united in supporting the places where Jesus lived, died, and rose again.
“It is truly a providential opportunity for the whole Catholic Church to take advantage of this collection to live the Good Friday of the Passion and death of the Lord in union with the holy places in which Jesus lived,” said Sandri, who serves as the prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches.
This year’s Good Friday collection will be taken in parishes worldwide on April 15. It is the main source of material support for Christian life in the region. U.S. Catholics can donate to the collection online, as well as at churches.
The cardinal described this annual collection, instituted by Pope Paul VI, as not only “an act of generosity of material contribution for these holy places for the Holy Land, but above all a spiritual moment of conversion, of sharing.”
With the collection, we are “approaching Jesus even ‘physically,’ we say, because we go where he has put his feet, where he has put his hands, where he has placed his gaze in these places,” he commented.
Sandri highlighted how the collection has helped to fund the renovations of both the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, the revered church built on the site where Jesus was buried.
The collection also supports seminarians and priests, as well as Catholic schools and humanitarian initiatives in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and other countries in the region.
“For example, it is truly admirable that many Catholics in the world and in the United States and other countries, while offering a small sum, become protagonists, involved in the welfare and in the possibility of living as Christians in these countries, as in Syria,” Sandri said.
The cardinal, who recently traveled to the Syrian capital of Damascus, said that the situation had calmed down after years of war.
He noted that one can safely drive or walk the streets of Damascus, as well as of Homs and Aleppo, but added that “the situation is very critical if we look at the levels of poverty.”
“There is no electricity. There is no gas. The whole country lives in fear of an uncertain future,” he said.
In the interview, Sandri also encouraged Catholics to consider making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where the local community has faced “serious economic difficulties” due to the cancellation of many pilgrimages over the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“With pilgrimages, the first thing that we always want to see for those of us who make them is a conversion to the Lord. But [the pilgrimages] also do a lot of good … from the economic point of view for local families, for Palestinians and Christians in general,” Sandri said.
“I believe that it is desirable that these pilgrimages increase also for another reason: These our Christian brothers and sisters, Catholics in the Holy Land, must feel that they are not alone, that there is the whole Church behind them, because they are the fellow followers of Jesus and what we seek is Jesus, his word and his presence,” he added.
For this reason, Sandri recommended that Christian pilgrims not only get to know the “holy stones” of sanctuaries and churches in the Holy Land, but to also encounter the Christian communities living there.