On the occasion of the annual Collection for the Holy Land, the Congregation for the Oriental Churches has sent, as customary, a Letter to the Bishops around the world so that they may support the Holy Land. Below is the text of the letter sent by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.
At the invitation of the Supreme Pontiffs, the Catholic Church, gathering on Good Friday for the memorial of the sorrowful Passion of Christ, expresses by prayer and by this Collection its support for the faith communities and the sacred places in the Holy Land. The need is particularly felt in this time of crisis, through which the entire region of the Middle East is passing.
The season of Lent favors a meditation full of love for the Holy Places which were present at the origin of our faith and in which the first Christian communities, following Christ, Salus Mundi, were gathered. Already St Paul remembers them, when he warmly exhorts his audience to “to make some contribution for the poor…” (cf. Rm 15:25-26; Gal 2:10; 1 Cor 16; 2 Cor 8-9).
Like the Apostle, so also Pope Francis has particularly at heart the sufferings of so many of our brothers and sisters in this corner of the world, a place made sacred by the Blood of the Lamb. “[Their suffering] aggravated in the past months because of the continuing hostilities in the region … cries out to God and it calls for our commitment to prayer and concrete efforts to help in any way possible.” (Pope Francis, Letter to the Christians in the Middle East, 21 December 2014).
Presently, there are millions of refugees fleeing Syria and Iraq, where the roar of arms does not cease and the way of dialogue and concord seems to be completely lost. Senseless hatred seems to prevail instead, along with the helpless desperation of those who have lost everything and have been expulsed from the land of their ancestors.
If the Christians of the Holy Land are encouraged to resist, to the degree possible, the understandable temptation to flee, the faithful throughout the world are asked to take their plight to heart. Also involved are brothers in Christ who belong to various confessions: an ecumenism of blood which points toward the triumph of unity: “ut unum sint“! (Jn 17:21).
This year presents a still more precious opportunity to become pilgrims in faith after the example of the Holy Father, who in May of last year visited this patch of land, so dear to Christians, Jews and Muslims alike. It is a chance to become promoters of dialogue through peace, prayer and sharing of burdens, because “the way of peace is strengthened if we realize that we are all of the same stock and members of the one human family; if we never forget that we have the same Father in heaven and that we are all his children, made in his image and likeness.” (Homily of Pope Francis during the Holy Mass at the International Stadium of Amman, 24 May 2014).
The little flock of Christians, spread throughout the Middle East is called “to promote dialogue, to build bridges in the spirit of the Beatitudes (cf. Mt 5:3:12), and to proclaim the Gospel of peace…” (Ibid., Letter to Christians in the Middle East).
Only in the unity of the Spirit and in fraternal charity with all disciples of Christ, can the Church, His Spouse, bear witness to hope before her children who daily live the same sufferings of the Lord, humiliated and abandoned.
I trust that the Good Friday Collection will be welcomed by all of the local Churches, resulting in an ever greater participation in the solidarity coordinated by our Congregation in order to guarantee the Holy Land with necessary support, both for the demands of ordinary ecclesial life and for particular necessities.
To You, to your closest Collaborators, particularly priests and religious men and women, as well as to all the faithful, I express the deepest gratitude of the Holy Father Francis and of this Dicastery, together with that of the Churches in the Land of Christ, for your generous attention and heartfelt response which will make successful this year’s Collecta pro Terra Sancta.
With my fraternal best regards in the Lord Jesus,
Leonardo Card. Sandri
Cyril Vasil’, S.J.