LETTER TO THE CATHOLIC HIERARCHY
ON THE OCCASION OF THE "COLLECTION
FOR THE HOLY LAND"
for Funds Distributed during 2008-2009
The preparation for Easter once again launches the appeal to
the Pastors of the universal Church to support the Holy Land by offering prayers,
attentive participation and practical generosity.
Sensitivity to the needs of the Church in Jerusalem and in
the Middle East finds its motivation in the "we" of the Church. This sensitivity
becomes help, like the relief sent to the brethren who lived in Judea (Acts
11:29-30); remembrance, like St Paul’s invitation in his Letter to the
Galatians (2:10), and a collection that responds to precise practical
instructions (1 Cor 16:1-6) and is described as the favor of taking part in
the relief of the saints (2 Cor 8-9 and Rom 15).
Our appeal this year is inspired by the pilgrimage "in the
historical footsteps of Jesus" which the Holy Father Benedict XVI made last May.
I had the honor of accompanying him and of sharing the
pastoral, ecumenical and interreligious concern that enlivened his words and
Together with the ecclesial community of Israel and Palestine
I listened to "a voice" of brotherhood and peace.
Strongly emphasizing the ceaseless problem of emigration, His
Holiness recalled that "in the Holy Land there is room for everyone"! And he
urged the authorities to support the Christian presence but at the same time
assured the Christians of this land of the Church’s solidarity.
At Holy Mass in Bethlehem, he then encouraged the baptized to
be "a bridge of dialogue and constructive cooperation in the building of a
culture of peace to replace the present stalemate of fear, aggression and
frustration" so that the local Churches might be "workshops of dialogue,
tolerance and hope, as well as of solidarity and practical charity".
The Year for Priests involves the beloved priests and
seminarians of the whole Church, together with their respective Bishops, in a
commitment to the Holy Places. Let us, therefore, return in our hearts to the
Upper Room in Jerusalem where the Teacher and Lord "loved us to the end"; to
that place where the Apostles with the Holy Mother of the Risen Crucified One
experienced the first Pentecost. We firmly believe in the "flame" of the Holy
Spirit "which is never extinguished" and which the Living One spreads in
abundance. And let us work tirelessly to guarantee a future to Christians in the
place where "the kindness and humanity" of Our God and Father first appeared.
The Pope has entrusted to the Congregation for the Eastern
Churches the task of keeping alive interest in that blessed Land. In his name I
urge everyone to reinforce the solidarity that has been shown so far. In fact,
the Christians of the East have a responsibility that belongs to the universal
Church, in other words the responsibility to preserve the "Christian origins",
the places and people who are the sign of them, so that those origins
may always be the reference of the Christian mission, the measure of the
ecclesial future and its security. They therefore deserve the support of the
I enclose an informative document that illustrates all that
the Custody of the Holy Land has been able to achieve with the 2009 Collection (enclosure
1). And I recall that it is always thanks to the annual Collection that various
interventions can be carried out by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and by
the Eastern Catholic Churches in Israel and in Palestine.
I pray the Lord that he may lavishly reward those who love
the Land that gave birth to him: it must remain, thanks to the "lively and
youthful Church" which works there, a witness down the centuries to the great
works of salvation.
In communion with the pastors and Christians of the Holy
Land, I wish you an Easter filled with divine blessings.
Leonardo Card. Sandri
Cyril Vasil’, S.J.
THE CUSTOS OF THE HOLY LAND
Order of Friars Minor
Summary Report 2008/2009
In fulfilling its age-old mission to safeguard the Holy Places of the
Redemption, to officiate at worship in these places, to assist pilgrims and
to build up apostolic works, in the years 2008/2009 the Custody of the
Holy Land gave special attention to promoting and implementing the
following projects and works:
I. Holy Places/Pilgrims
1. Ain Karem
Completion of the restoration of the entrance
to the Shrine of the Visitation. Archaeological investigations and
excavations in the main square, total renovation of water and waste pipes,
restoration of the long flight of steps that gives access to the Shrine.
Completion of the project at the Shrine of St
John in the Desert for the restoration of the ancient boundary wall and of
several places for the reception of pilgrims desirous of a hermitage experience.
Renewal of the entire electrical system.
Completion of the project for the restoration of the Convent of St
Lazarus. Renewal of the electrical and plumbing systems and renovation of
the floors in the Convent, in the sacristy and in the areas for the
reception of pilgrims.
Project for the renewal of the lighting system in the Church of St
Catherine, Bethlehem, together with the repainting of the whole church.
Continuation of the restoration of the rooms in the Casa Nova with a view
to the increasing number of pilgrims arriving.
Project for the restoration of the Chapel of the True Cross in the
Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher and the installation of a new system for
the protection of the walls.
Project for the restructuring of the Kedron Valley between the Shrine and
the walls of ancient Jerusalem, preparation of areas for the reception of
pilgrims, for prayer and for meditation. The construction of two new
complexes of services for the use of pilgrims.
Preparation for the celebration of Holy Mass, celebrated by the Holy
Father in the Kedron Valley.
Restoration of the windows of the Basilica of the Nations. Preparation of
the project for the restoration of the roof of the Basilica and the
Restoration of the Dominus Flevit Convent and of the project for
restructuring the garden and areas for the reception of pilgrims.
Completion of the second phase of the restoration of the Shrine of St
Peter at Jaffa, consisting in the total renewal of the Convent’s interior
and of areas for pastoral activities for Spanish-, French- and
Polish-speaking foreign workers and for the Hebrew-speaking community.
Start of the project for the restoration of the St Anthony Convent in
Conservation project in the archaeological area of Magdala. Restoration
and consolidation of the remains found on the archaeological campaign in
the 1970s. It also became necessary to lift, restore and transfer the
pavement mosaics to adequate supports to protect them from atmospheric
damage. A visitors’ itinerary is being prepared, specifically designed to
illustrate daily life in the town at the time of Jesus.
Complete restoration of the auditorium where His Holiness Benedict XVI was
to hold a meeting with the religious leaders of Galilee. Preparation of
the celebration at which the Pope presided in the upper Church. Completion
of the restoration of the access routes for visits to the Shrine and for
Continuation of the restoration of the Grotto of the Annunciation.
Preparation of the project for the roofing of the ancient church in
Sephoris (which recalls the nativity and childhood of the Virgin); payment
of the upcoming fees for permits to be obtained from the antiquities
8. Mount Nebo, Jordan
First phase of the work on the restoration of the Basilica, the memorial
of the death of the Prophet Moses: consolidation of the foundations and of
the site and installation of structures to support the roofing of the
9. Mount Tabor
Preparation of a project for a new parking lot and for the restoration of
the access routes to the Shrine, of the large terrace over the sacristy
and of the stained-glass windows in the crypt of the church.
Restoration of some rooms in the Convent.
Preparation of the project for the construction of the new Convent in the
Shrine of Nain where Jesus raised the only son of the widow. In addition
to the building of new accommodation, the project includes the restoration
of the existing church, archaeological excavations and the reordering of
the whole area for the reception of pilgrims.
II. Holy Places/Local Communities
1. Institutions for youth
Continuation of the “Scholarships” project, which consists in providing
full funding for studies over four years. There are 350 university
scholarships per year, distributed in the universities of the region
(Bethlehem, the Hebrew Universities in Jerusalem and Haifa, Bir Zeit,
Amman and others).
Continuation of the Support for Craft Enterprises project. It consists in
supporting about 10 small craft enterprises with the purchase of spare
parts, production equipment and aids to ensure the security of the
2. Family-oriented activities
(Bethlehem) Continuation of the project for the support of families
organized by the Parish Aid Center and in coordination with the
Franciscan Family Center (Parish Family Counseling Center). This type
of aid includes social assistance to families in need.
Franciscan Children’s Home. It takes in more than 20 children from 6 to 12
years old who come from poor families with a variety of problems. As well
as being given hospitality and help in their studies, the children are
supervised by an educator, a social worker and a psychologist. The project
is carried out in close collaboration with the Franciscan Family
Continuation of the Medical Assistance project. The project takes care of
various aspects of health care and is coordinated with the Franciscan
Family Center, Caritas and the Bethlehem Arab Society for
Rehabilitation. The main objective is to provide families in financial
difficulty with full or partial coverage of medical expenses (purchase of
medicines, visits to the doctor and hospitalization).
Project for the restoration of houses or apartments that belong to the
neediest families. The restoration work is carried out by unemployed
workmen. In addition to the assistance to families, dozens of jobs are
3. Parish communities
(Jerusalem) Preparation of the second phase of the renovation project for
the buildings of the Beit Hanina Parish Center. Payment of the bills for
the restoration and enlargement of the church.
Parish Center in Nazareth. With the completion and inauguration of a newly
built parish center in Nazareth for the various parish and social
activities of the Christian community in the town (almost completely
funded by the German bishops and by His Holiness Benedict XVI), work
continues with the construction of sports grounds for the young and the
preparation of play areas for children.
(Jaffa) Project for the reorganization and preparation of new spaces for
the parish activities of the local community and for the foreign
communities (over twenty thousand faithful) for the local St Anthony
(Ramle) Enlargement and restoration of the existing school.
5. Construction of apartments for the poor and for young couples
The Franciscan Neighborhood in Jaffa. There are 124 apartments for
Christian families in the parish. The final building permits have been
obtained and paid for.
Housing Project in Nazareth. This is located 2 km from the Basilica
of the Annunciation. In addition to a chapel and several buildings for
social use, about 80 apartments are planned in response to the young
families’ need for homes.
The restoration of houses in the Old City of Jerusalem continues. These
old dwellings which often date back to the Ottoman period are all too
often in precarious conditions that oblige the inhabitants to leave. The
project provides for a gradual renewal of about 300 houses. In the period
from December 2008 to December 2009, more than 80 apartments have been
6. Other cultural institutions
Every year the Custody of the Holy Land gives financial support to the
Faculty of Biblical Sciences and Archaeology of the Studium Biblicum
Franciscanum in Jerusalem. In addition to the full support of the
Faculty’s activities, about 30 students from different dioceses and
religious institutes are offered scholarships that guarantee them food and
lodging for the whole of their study period.
Franciscan Media Center. This is a new kind of apostolate whose aim
is to broadcast through television networks the message of the Holy Places
and the life of the local Christian communities.
Magnificat Institute. In its few years of activity, the
Magnificat has become a music school capable of training students from
different cultural and religious backgrounds. Today more than 180 young
people are enrolled, directed by 16 teachers. The Magnificat
encourages research activities and local and international cultural events.
To all this must be added numerous interventions in Syria and Lebanon. We
point out in particular the rebuilding of the Parish Church and Convent of
St Francis, Aleppo, which was completed in October 2009; the construction of
90 apartments and a nursery school in Tripoli, Lebanon, which is underway;
the complete restoration of the convent in Tripoli, of the church in
Latakiye, Syria, of the sisters’ house and of the nursery school in Jakubiye,