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The Custody of the Holy Land has continued to support projects and activities related to the Holy Places. These include assistance to pilgrims and aid for various apostolic works (cf. Paul VI’s Apostolic Exhortation, Nobis in Animo). For the year 2006-2007, the principal projects included the following:
A. Ain Karen
1. Restoration of the Hospitality House to serve small groups of pilgrims with particular programs such as promoting meditation and prayer.
2. Sanctuary of St. John of the Desert: construction of a parking zone, restoration of a wall for the site enclosure, and restoration of several places for the reception of pilgrims desirous of a hermitage experience.
1. Renovation of the ancient Grotto of the Milk – consisting of the restoration of the chapel adjoining the new church (blessed in January, 2007). Further, work was completed (May, 2007) on restoration and construction of a new wing adjacent to the convent where the Sisters reside who serve at the sanctuary.
2. Renovation of the convent and sanctuary of the Shepherds’ Field, with particular attention to the protection of archaeological sites.
3. Complete restoration of the Chapel of St. Helen within the Sanctuary of Bethlehem, expanding the space in which pilgrims are welcomed and where Holy Mass is celebrated.
C. Cana of Galilee
Renovation of the roof of the church, of the courtyard, and of the annexes attached to a floor of the house where Religious reside who serve the mission of the sanctuary.
1. Complete restoration of the floor and of the roof of the Convent of the Flagellation, and partial restoration of the Sanctuary of the Flagellation and Condemnation.
2. Diverse efforts to improve the Sanctuary of Gethsemane and the Grotto of the Apostles, notably for the betterment of reception of pilgrims. A projects was also begun to restructure the Kedron Valley area between the sanctuary and the walls of ancient Jerusalem.
Conclusion of the initial phase of the restoration of the Sanctuary of St. Peter at Jaffa: complete renovation of the exterior of the church and convent.
1. Projects related to the access route for visitors to the sanctuary and for processions. The completion of the overall project is anticipated for May, 2008.
2. Conclusion of the restoration of the Convent of Sephoris. The realization of the plan for the roofing of the old church awaits the permission of he civil authorities.
HOLY PLACES/LOCAL COMMUNITIES
A. Activities on behalf of Youth
1. 290 scholarships for university studies; these finance the full program of studies during 4 years for Christian students who attend the universities of the region (Bethlehem, Hebraica, Bir Zeit, Amman and others).
2. Construction of the Catholic Action Sport Center in Bethlehem. The complex was completed in March, 2007.
3. Bethlehem: Project to assist recent graduates with their transition to the work world. For example, this provided benefit to 20 qualified and worthy young people who entered the workplace by offering to their respective enterprises and institutions the payment of 2/3 of the salary of these young people for a 12 month period. In this way, these youth acquire work-related experience, enhanced knowledge and association with new personnel, plus the potential for future employment.
4. Bethlehem: project to promote the formation and insertion into the workplace of the handicapped. The project is somewhat comparable to a previous one, but which now concentrates upon the requalification and reinsertion into the work environment of 42 persons formerly employed in Jerusalem or in other parts of the Holy Land and who have lost their positions.
5. Bethlehem: support for artistic ventures. In 2006, this assisted some ten small undertakings with their acquisition of spare parts, with installations for production, and with the means to ensure security.
B. Actions favoring families
1. Bethlehem: Franciscan Family Center. The Center proposes diverse activities to offer advice on the nature of the Christian family, which is to say for the safeguarding and development of families, particularly young couples. The Center annually assists about a hundred families.
2. Bethlehem: Franciscan Children’s House. The House receives about 20 youngsters between 6 and 12 years old and who come from poor families and those afflicted by various ‘difficulties’. Besides their being accepted and helped with their academic studies, they enjoy the attention of an educator, a social worker and a psychologist. The project is linked to the Franciscan Family Center and to the efforts of local volunteers.
3. Bethlehem: Medical assistance. The project deals with different types of sanitary assistance and is coordinated with the Franciscan Family Center, with Caritas, and with the Bethlehem Arab Society for Rehabilitation. The project assures families plagued by economic difficulties some relief, partial or complete, concerning their expenditures for medical treatment, for pharmaceutical costs, medical consultations and hospital visits. In 2006, 40 families regularly received monies and about a hundred other families received monies periodically.
C. Aid to academic endeavors
1. Construction of a new floor for the Bethlehem School for Girls. With this new construction, a laboratory was added plus some classroom facilities; all intended to raise the school’s teaching level.
2. Restoration and enlargement of the School for Boys in Bethlehem, thereby increasing the possibility of enrollment.
3. A project to restore and to reconstruct the theater of the School for Boys in Jerusalem.
4. Expansion of the elementary school in Jericho (expected completion in 2008).
5. Completion of a restructuring of the school in Jaffa.
D. Construction of housing for the poor and for young couples
1. St. Francis Housing Project in Bethlehem: construction of 20 apartments – mainly for young couples and those who have difficulty in locating apartments or in paying ordinary rental costs. At the same time, construction itself promises to create work for some 95 families in the Bethlehem area. The project will be inaugurated in January, 2008.
2. St. Catherine Housing Project in Bethlehem. This was inaugurated in October, 2006, and consists of 24 apartments for the lodging of Christian families.
3. Restoration of dwellings in the Old City of Jerusalem. These buildings date to the Ottoman era, and are in such an uninhabitable state that their occupants have been forced to abandon them. The projects is designed to gradually reconstruct and refurbish them in order that 300 Christian families may remain in the Old City.
E. Other Cultural activities
1. Each year the Custody of the Holy Land supports the Faculty of Biblical Sciences and of Archaeology of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum in Jerusalem. Some 30 students coming from different dioceses and Religious provinces are provided with scholarships and with fees for food and residency.
2. Franciscan Multimedia Center. This is a multimedia center which offers Catholic radio and TV programming, and which makes available audiovisual documents in numerous languages concerning the Holy Land and the Christian presence there.