ON THE OCCASION OF THE "COLLECTION FOR THE HOLY LAND"
The annual Lenten journey towards the Pasch of the Lord offers a propitious occasion to sensitize the Catholic Church around the world with regard to the Holy Land by promoting relevant initiatives of prayer and fraternal charity.
Therefore, I am sending this cordial invitation to all ecclesial communities, asking them to place themselves at the side of the Christians of Jerusalem, Israel and Palestine, as well as the countries near to them B Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Cyprus, and Egypt B which together make up that blessed Land. The Son of God made man, after having crossed this land announcing the Kingdom and confirming the word with mighty works, wonders and signs (cf. Acts 2:22), went up to the Holy City to immolate Himself: he suffered, died on the Cross, rose from the dead, and gave his Spirit to us. From that time, every Christian finds himself at home in that City and in that Land. This is possible thanks to the pastors in this place, who, by the will of the Lord Jesus, continue in our day also to gather our brothers and sisters in the faith to celebrate the love of Him who Amakes all things new@ (Ap. 21:5).
The Congregation for Oriental Churches hereby reminds the bishops of the entire world of the unceasing request of Pope Benedict XVI that the mission of the Church in the Holy Places be generously supported. Although specifically pastoral, this mission at the same time offers a praiseworthy social service to all without exception. In this way, fraternity, which can overcome division and discrimination, increases and gives renewed impetus to ecumenical dialogue and interreligious collaboration. This constitutes an admirable work of peace and reconciliation, which is all the more necessary today, as we share the Holy Father=s preoccupation Afor the people of those countries where hostilities and acts of violence continue, particularly Syria and the Holy Land@ (Address to Members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, January 9, 2012). Soon after, His Holiness again interceded fervently for Syria, renewing Athe pressing appeal to put an end to the violenceY for the common good of the whole of society and the Region@ (Angelus, Sunday, February 12, 2012).
The day, which the Supreme Pontiffs have designated for the Collection for the Holy Land, is the Friday preceding Easter, even if each community is free to choose another opportune moment.
This year, Good Friday seems more fitting than ever as a sign of the needs of both pastors and faithful, which are bound up with the sufferings of the entire Middle East. For the disciples of Christ, hostility is often the daily bread which nourishes the faith and sometimes makes the echo of martyrdom. Christian emigration is exacerbated by the lack of peace, which tends to impoverish hope, changing it into the fear of facing alone a future that seems to exist only in the abandonment of one=s own country.
Nonetheless, as was the case for the Gospel=s grain of wheat (cf. Jn 12:24), so the trials of Christians in the Holy Land prepare without doubt a brighter tomorrow. The dawning of this new day, however, requires support now for schools, medical assistance, critical housing, meeting places, and everything else that the generosity of the Church has devised. What great faith we discover in young people, who, in witness to the Beatitudes and their love of country, have committed themselves to work for justice and peace through non-violent, evangelical means. What a justly proud and firm faith is communicated by those who offer words of reconciliation and forgiveness, knowing that this is the only true response to violence and even to the abuse of power.
We have the duty to restore the spiritual patrimony which we have received from these Christians= two millennia of fidelity to the truth of the faith. We can and must do this by our prayer, by concrete assistance, and by pilgrimages. The Year of Faith, which marks the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, will provide particular motivation for us to direct our steps towards that Land, journeying first in our hearts through the mysteries of the life of Christ in company with the Holy Mother of the Lord. Next Good Friday, around the Cross of Christ, let us be conscious of being together with these brothers and sisters of ours. May the loneliness that is at times strongly felt in their situation be overcome by our fraternity! May they be able to proclaim in serenity of both body and spirit that AJesus is Lord@ (Acts 11:20)! Thus, Athe door of faith@ (cf. Acts 14:27) will continue to be thrown open wide from that very Land, so as to win the pardon and mercy of God for the entire human family.
Our Congregation is pleased to make itself a voice for Pope Benedict XVI, expressing his profound gratitude to bishops, priests, religious men and women, to young people and to all who have given of themselves for the benefit of the Land of Jesus. Likewise, we willingly transmit the abundant thankfulness of the Patriarchal Diocese of Jerusalem, of the Franciscan Custody, and of the local Oriental Catholic Churches.
With prayerful best wishes in the joy of the Crucified and Risen Lord,
Leonardo Card. Sandri
✠ Cyril VasilÂÂ, S.J.