VATICAN CITY, MAR 22, 2005 (VIS) - The Congregation for Oriental Churches has sent a letter to bishops throughout the world inviting them to support the Christian community in the Holy Land by means of the annual Good Friday collection. The letter bears the signature of Cardinal Ignace Moussa I Daoud and Archbishop Antonio Maria Veglio, respectively prefect and secretary of the congregation.

"This dicastery," the letter reads, "remains attentive to the plight of the Christian community, a community which continually diminishes because of the absence of peace and of stability. Given the ongoing needs of this community, it must appeal again and again for help from each of our dioceses and from all of our ecclesiastical institutions."

The Good Friday collection, the letter explains, "aims to promote among the Christian faithful a love for the Land of the Lord. For the Church to survive there it must rely upon a loving and nurturing solidarity on the part of each Christian; a solidarity which bears witness to faith in Him Who was born in that land, Who preached the Gospel there and Who also died and was resurrected there."

After highlighting how the Holy Father "continually manifests his paternal closeness to the Christians of the Holy Land," Cardinal Daoud writes that "peace in the world passes through Jerusalem, the City of Peace, that Holy City and Capital of Monotheism, as Pope Paul VI referred to it in his message of March 25, 1974, 'Nobis in animo.' With this in mind, what is anticipated is that each Christian strive on behalf of this desired peace, the special gift of God which must imbue our prayer, our efforts and our solidarity."

Paul V was the first Pope to formally state his wish that the Universal Church observe Good Friday as a day of prayer and almsgiving on behalf of the Catholic community in the Holy Land and for the maintenance of the sacred sites linked to the Redemption. With the Apostolic Breve "Coelestis Regis" on January 22, 1618, Pope Paul V specifically set forth this objective, also known as the "pro terra sancta" collection, for Good Friday. Benedict XIV confirmed this in 1746. The most recent papal document on this annual appeal for the Holy Land was Paul VI's Apostolic Exhortation "Nobis in animo" of March 25, 1974.