At the beginning of Lent, this Congregation, charged by an explicit mandate of the Supreme Pontiffs to disseminate and encourage every initiative and intervention to benefit the Holy Places, warmly recommends the traditional "pro Terra Sancta" Collection to Bishops’ Conferences and to individual Bishops.
As the long series of documents promulgated down the centuries clearly demonstrates, the Supreme Pontiffs have always shown the greatest concern for the Christian communities in the Holy Land. The countless interventions of the Servant of God John Paul II on the situation in the Middle East and especially in the Holy Land, involved in a crisis that every day causes unheard of suffering, remain memorable.
Indeed, the Land of the Lord continues to be the scene of a conflict that has lasted for decades and deprives Catholic communities and institutions of the adequate means to maintain and promote religious, humanitarian and cultural activities. This distressing situation leads to poverty and unemployment, with serious consequences for families and for the entire population. It also increases the disturbing phenomenon of the constant exodus of Christians, especially young couples for whom there is no prospect of a safe and dignified future.
However, the presence of Christians in the Holy Land is more necessary than ever for the peaceful future of the area, as it is also for the good of the whole universal Church, which ought to find in the Holy Places living communities that profess the Gospel faith.
At the Audience on 23 June 2005 which the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, granted to the participants in the meeting of the Assembly of Organizations for Aid to the Eastern Churches (ROACO), he emphasized in any case that "certain positive signs in recent months strengthen the hope that the day of reconciliation between the various communities working in the Holy Land will not be long in coming; for this", he said, "let us unceasingly pray with trust". This is the responsibility incumbent upon the universal Church with regard to the Mother Church of Jerusalem, "to which", as the Pope said, "all Christians have an unforgettable obligation".
On every possible occasion, the Holy Father has confirmed his affection and asked for prayers for Jerusalem and for the entire Holy Land.
At the General Audience of Wednesday, 12 October 2005, commenting on Psalm 121 with the Fathers of the Church, for whom the ancient Jerusalem was a sign of definitive and universal peace, the Pope emphasized the Holy City’s special ecumenical and interreligious mission: "in this way the Church will grow like a true Jerusalem, a place of peace. But let us also pray for the city of Jerusalem, that it may increasingly be a place for the encounter of religions and peoples; that it may truly be a place of peace". And in the Urbi et Orbi Message for his first Christmas as Pope, the Holy Father invoked the Child of Bethlehem "May he grant courage to people of good will in the Holy Land, in Iraq, in Lebanon, where signs of hope, which are not lacking, need to be confirmed by actions inspired by fairness and wisdom".
Thus, it is a duty of all Catholics throughout the world to accompany the Christian communities of that blessed Land with prayer and concrete solidarity.
I am honoured to transmit to you, to your direct collaborators, to all the priests, religious and faithful who work for the success of the Holy Friday Collection, the sentiments of deepest gratitude of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, together with my own gratitude and that of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.
Upon you and upon the ecclesial community entrusted to your care I invoke an abundance of divine Blessings, and confirm that I remain with fraternal respect,
Yours most devotedly,
Ignace Moussa Card. Daoud
Antonio Maria Vegliò,