ON THE OCCASION OF THE "COLLECTION FOR THE HOLY LAND"
During his visit to this Dicastery to commemorate the 90th Anniversary of its founding, Pope Benedict XVI issued an appeal for peace in the Holy Land and in the Middle East. The date was June 9, 2007, on which occasion the Holy Father announced my nomination as Prefect for the Congregation for Eastern Churches.
Two other Pontifical declarations followed later during the same month, both expressing concern for the situation in this region and for the welfare of its inhabitants.
In the name of the Holy Father, I wish to take this opportunity to address myself for the first time to my brothers in the episcopate who serve your respective Churches. I also desire to emphasize, as has the Pontiff, the invitation to you to continue to sustain spiritually and materially those Catholics living in the Holy Land. Pope Benedict’s are words which constitute a persuasive and authoritative call to solidarity.
With the inauguration of my mandate, I became aware of the nature of this responsibility and therefore desired, in the presence of my associates from the Dicastery and of a group of Ambassadors, to light a lamp before the icon of the Mother of God so as to express an invitation to constant prayer for the cause of peace.
The absence of peace exacerbates the many long-standing problems as well as the poverty afflicting the region of the Holy Places. That absence also contributes to the creation of new difficulties. Thus, we must recognize that Christians who reside there are a priority for the attention of the entire Catholic Church, together with that of all other Churches and ecclesial communities. For even in their need, they embody the "living charism of Christianity’s origins."
The Good Friday Collection has a special relevance. Successive Pontiffs have indicated the appropriateness of this day to attest to our common heritage of that land which, in the course of history, abides as a "silent witness to the Savior’s life upon earth," to cite an expression preferred by Pope Benedict.
It is my fervent plea that every local Church shall participate in the effort to further our commitment to charity. The Congregation for Eastern Churches, by virtue of Papal directive, coordinates this initiative, and does so with exactitude and fairness. Always, the goal is to assist with the everyday requirements of Christian life.
In this way, the Latin community openly supports the Patriarch of Jerusalem, the Franciscans who are Custodians of the Holy Land, and all those belonging to the Eastern Catholic Churches. The desire of the Holy See is that the charitable outreach by all Catholics will not simply be viewed as occasional, but as so continuous and profound that the future may be welcomed with hope. Nor is this program of charitable distribution based upon religious, cultural or political distinctions. Rather, it seeks especially to equip the younger generations to take their place in society in a manner which renders them competent and able to transmit the worth of their Catholic education and formation.
We cannot overlook, however, those numerous other challenges which are serious and urgent. For example, there is the ever present matter of immigration, bringing with it the risk that Christian communities can be deprived of their most important human resources. We must seek to safeguard Christianity’s historic legacy by striving to preserve those ‘living communities’ in which the Mystery of Christ, our Peace, is cherished and celebrated.
May I also take this opportunity to commend the various particular Churches for their many contributions on behalf of the Holy Land. I would mention, for instance, a word of gratitude to those who participate in pilgrimages, and those who volunteer their time and talents. This brings to mind the highly laudable care rendered by parishes and by the families of Religious, and as is evident in their various institutions, Foundations and Associations.
I respectfully encourage that you, my fellow bishops, will authorize once again this "Collection for the Holy Land" owing to the merit of its objectives and its specific characteristics.
Enclosed you will please find a document for your information, prepared jointly by this Dicastery and by the Custody of the Holy Land, and which outlines some of those actions undertaken through our auspices during 2007. I leave it to the disposition of the bishops and to those priests whom they assign in this endeavour to do their utmost to accomplish this work of fraternal charity pertaining expressly to the land of the Lord Jesus.
In conclusion, be assured of the deepest gratitude of the Holy Father for your support of this cause which is of such vital importance for the Church and for humanity. I extend thanks also on behalf of this Dicastery and of all the Latin and Eastern communities of the Holy Land.
With most cordial and fraternal regards, I remain,
Sincerely,Leonardo Card. Sandri
Antonio Maria Vegliņ
CONGREGATION FOR EASTERN CHURCHES
The Congregation for Eastern Churches receives directly from the Apostolic Nunciatures a part of the Collection for the Holy Land. According to a percentage basis established by Pontifical norms, this allows for distribution of ordinary and extraordinary subsidies to ecclesiastical districts, to Religious Orders, and to other ecclesiastical juridic persons in the following countries: Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Egypt and, in particular, Israel and Palestine.
Special attention is given to scholastic institutions, such as Catholic schools of various levels and Bethlehem University. Similarly, assistance is designated for the coordination of the scholarly activities associated with the Secretariat of Solidarity, and which is headquartered in Jerusalem.
Additionally, financial aid is set aside for U.C.S.E.I. (Central Office for Foreign Students in Italy), with the goal of helping lay students from the aforementioned countries, along with providing contributions to priests from those same countries who are enrolled in Pontifical Universities.
Besides the range of ordinary assistance, during 2007 the sum of US $ 500,000 was allotted for the construction of ten apartments at Bethlehem University, as well as another US $ 500,000 for the reconstruction of a Melkite-operated school at Maghar.
The Congregation remains concerned to promote awareness among the bishops of the world of the situation of the Holy Land. Moreover, great care is taken to ensure that funds are distributed according to the purposes determined by the Holy See. There is serious attention to this economic role.
"From my lips comes an equally heartfelt plea for peace in the Holy Land, Iraq, and Lebanon (...) May the Churches and the disciples of the Lord remain there where Divine Providence has placed them in the beginning; there where they deserve to remain, as a presence which dates back to the birth of Christianity. They have been distinguished down through the centuries by a love that is undeniable and inseparable from their own faith, their own people and their own land."
Sunday, June 17, 2007: The Angelus, from Assisi
I consider it my duty to launch from here a pressing and heartfelt appeal to stop all the armed conflicts which bathe the world in blood. May weapons be silenced and may hatred everywhere give way to love, offence to forgiveness and discord to union! (...) We are thinking in particular of the Holy Land, so loved by St. Francis; and of Iraq, Lebanon and the entire region of the Middle East."
Thursday, June 21, 2007: Papal audience for ROACO (Riunione Opere Aiuto Chiese Orientali)
"I wish to knock again at the heart of God, Creator and Father, to ask with immense trust for the gift of peace. I knock at the heart of those who have specific responsibilities so that they may adhere to their grave duty to impartially guarantee peace for all, freeing them from the mortal illness of religious, cultural, historic or geographic discrimination."
Congregation for Eastern Churches: Tuesday, July 3, 2007: on the occasion of the ceremony to light the lamp of peace:
"That the Holy Mother of God sustains our invocation and revives the certainty that even today the Lord can disarm the hearts, the will and the hands and transform us into authentic instruments of His peace."
CUSTODY OF THE HOLY LAND
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
C. Cana of Galilee
HOLY PLACES/LOCAL COMMUNITIES
A. Activities on behalf of Youth
B. Actions favoring families
C. Aid to academic endeavors
D. Construction of housing for the poor and for young couples
E. Other Cultural activities