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The President of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum,” His Excellency Paul Josef Cordes, will travel to the Holy Land from 13th to 19th December to deliver a gift of the Pope.

This past September, on the occasion of the pastoral visit of the Holy Father Benedict XVI to Bavaria, the faithful of the dioceses of Munich, Regensburg and Passau held a collection to support the Christians in the land of Jesus. The collection struck a cord: one million Euro was sent to "Cor Unum", which Mons. Cordes will bring in the Pope’s name to the Custodian Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, ofm.

The gift will be used in its entirety for the construction of a Pastoral Center in Nazareth. Ample spaces for young people and families are planned in an area of more than 30,000 square metres, not far from the Basilica of the Annunciation. These spaces include accommodations, rooms for meetings and catecheses, classrooms, a sports field: a right and fitting Centre for Christians and a reference point for pilgrims to the holy city.

In this way, Christians of the Holy Land will sense the closeness and encouragement of the entire people of God to remain in the land of Jesus in order to build a civilization of love, even in the midst of adversity. This is the wish of the Pope for the Christians of Nazareth and of the Christians of the Holy Land for the world.

The programme for the visit of  "Cor Unum’s President is set to touch the central places of this country in which he will encourage the Christians in their most singular mission: to assure a Christian presence in the land where Jesus dwelt.

In Jerusalem, he will meet the Benedictine Fathers of the Dormitio, the Patriarch and the Apostolic Nuncio. In Bethlehem, he will visit the seminary of Bet-Jala. Saturday 16th December will be a key moment: the handing over of the Pope’s gift to the Custody of the Holy Land. Then he will be with the German Benedictines in the Monastery of Tabga.

Another important moment will be 18th December when he will visit the Greek-Melkite Archbishop, His Excellency Elias Chacour, to whom he will deliver a gift of US$50,000 for the construction of a school in the village of Mughar. This amount represents the fruit of a collection held to mark the World Première showing of the film “Nativity” at the Vatican on 26th November. The uniqueness of this school – in addition to being located in areas lived in by the parents of Jesus – lies in the fact that Christians, Druses and Muslims will occupy the very same school benches.      

Vatican City, 12 december 2006