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LETTER TO THE CATHOLIC HIERARCHY
ON THE OCCASION OF THE "COLLECTION FOR THE HOLY LAND"

LENT 2008

 

A Triptych of Peace by Pope Benedict XVI

Summary Report for Funds Distributed during 2006-2007


Your Excellency,

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
Prefect

 

Antonio Maria Vegliņ
Archbishop Secretary


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.


A TRIPTYCH OF PEACE BY POPE BENEDICT XVI

 

Saturday, June 9, 2007: Appeal of the Holy Father during his visit to the Congregation for Eastern Churches on the occasion of its 90th Anniversary

"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."

Leonardo Sandri
Prefect

 


CUSTODY OF THE HOLY LAND
The Order of Friars Minor

Summary Report for Funds Distributed during 2006-2007

 

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:

HOLY PLACES/PILGRIMS

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.

B. Bethlehem

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.

D. Jerusalem

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.

E. Jaffa

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.

F. Nazareth

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.

 

     

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