VATICAN CITY, 21 MAR 2011 (VIS) – Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, has sent a letter to the bishops of the world concerning the traditional Good Friday collection for the Holy Land.

The English-language letter, which also bears the signature of Archbishop Cyril Vasil S.J., secretary of the same congregation, explains how “the Holy Land expects the brotherhood of the universal Church and desires to reciprocate it in sharing the experience of grace and suffering that marks her journey. She wishes to recognise, first of all, the grace of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, and that of the papal vist to Cyprus. These events have increased the interest of the world and the return of a great number of pilgrims in the historical footsteps of the Lord Jesus. Yet also tangible is sorrow at the escalating violence to Christians in Eastern regions whose consequences are felt acutely in the Holy Land. The Christians of the East are experiencing the actuality of martyrdom and are suffering
because of the instability or absence of peace. The most disturbing sign of this is their inexorable exodus. Indeed a few positive signs in some situations do not suffice to invert the sorrowful tendency of Christian emigration which impoverishes the entire area, draining it of the most vital forces constituted by the young generations”. “This appeal for the collection is inherent in the cause of peace, of which the brothers and sisters of the Holy Land desire to be effective instruments in the hands of the Lord for the good of the whole of the East”.

“It takes place at the beginning of the Lenten journey towards Easter and can culminate on Good Friday or on the occasions considered most favourable in each local context. However, the collection everywhere remains the ordinary and indispensable means of promoting the life of Christians in that beloved Land”.

After highlighting how “the Congregation for the Eastern Churches acts as spokesperson for these Churches’ needs for pastoral care, education, social assistance and charity”, the prefect and secretary of the dicastery note that “Pope Benedict invites us, however, to go beyond the gesture, although it is praiseworthy, of concrete help. The relationship must become more intense in order to attain a ‘true spirituality anchored to the Land of

An attachment to the letter of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches explains how, in the period 2009-2010, the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land – the mission of which is to “to keep alive the liturgy in the places of worship, to take care of pilgrims, to enhance apostolic works, and support the Christian community” – dedicated particular attention to the
planning and execution of such projects as: the Sanctuary of St. John the Baptist at Ain Karem, the Sanctuary of the Transfiguration at Mount Tabor, scholarships for university students, and building homes for the poor and for young married couples.

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