The collection that will take place in all parishes this Sunday, September 13, is dedicated to them.
This Sunday, September 13, the worldwide collection for the Holy Land will be held. In the midst of the crisis created by the coronavirus pandemic, contributing to this collection can prevent Christians from leaving the Holy Places in these days when they are under economic and social pressure to emigrate.Here are five reasons why the Popes have regularly asked all Catholic parishes around the world to dedicate the offertory collection of the Good Friday liturgy (this year the collection has been delayed because of the COVID-19) to supporting the Holy Land.
1. CUSTODIANS OF THE HOLY PLACES
The first and most obvious task of Christians in the Holy Land, in particular of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, founded by St. Francis of Assisi eight centuries ago, is to protect the places where Jesus lived.
Without its Christians, and in particular without its Franciscans, places dating back to important moments in the life of Jesus, visited today by pilgrims, would have remained buried throughout history.
Today, the Christian population constitutes 2% of the people living in the territory of Israel. Their presence and activity is decisive for shrines to continue opening their doors.
2. WITNESSES OF THE GOSPEL IN THE HOLY PLACES
There’s no greater risk for those places, touched by Jesus, than to become museums, mere dead stones. The presence of Christians of the Holy Land allows these shrines to continue to be witnesses to the Gospel.
When we visit the Holy Sepulchre, Bethlehem or Nazareth, we find Franciscan friars and other priests who celebrate the sacraments, local communities who offer hospitality. Certainly, they tell us about the history of the place, but above all, their lives transmit to us the message that Jesus left there.
The Holy Places, thanks to their Christians, are living stones, and they make it possible for pilgrimages to the Holy Land to be more than a tourist trip: they can be an encounter with Jesus, with his message, with his land, and with his Church.
3. A SIGN OF PEACE IN THE MIDST OF CONFLICT
In the midst of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, which has not yet found a peaceful solution, the small minority of Christians contribute today to the search for paths of understanding and peace.
The pastors of the Christian communities, and in particular the friars of the Custody of the Holy Land, are witnesses to the message of dialogue and universal brotherhood announced by St. Francis of Assisi.
4. EDUCATION IN THE HOLY LAND
Christian educational centers in the Holy Land are recognized in the region for their excellence. They’re not only intended for Christians, but also welcome students of other religions, mostly Muslims.
This is a fundamental task for the future of this region for two reasons. These educational centers allow Christians to stay in this land and give their children a good education; and they bring non-Christians into contact from childhood with the message of peace and with the academic excellence so necessary for the region.
5. WORKS OF CHARITY IN THE HOLY LAND
Finally, the Christian presence is fundamental to guarantee indispensable humanitarian assistance for the population.
Christian hospitals, dispensaries, shelters and aid centers constitute a service of charity without which many families would not be able to survive.
These reasons allow us to understand the appeal made by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Oriental Churches, in the video accompanying this article, when he invites all Christians this Sunday to offer “a gesture of solidarity to help the Holy Places and the needs of our brothers and sisters in Jesus’ homeland.”