ROME — As Christians in the Middle East continue to suffer innumerable hardships this Lenten season, the Vatican has announced that this year’s Good Friday Collection will benefit Christian communities in the Holy Land.
“Once again, from every part of the Church, expressions of solidarity come together effectively in the Good Friday Collection,” stated Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, in a recent press release.
“Our sense of communion in the suffering and risen Christ moves us again this year to undertake the important initiative that is the Collection for the Holy Land,” Sandri said.
This announcement means that in most Catholic parishes around the world, a Good Friday Collection will be taken up to aid Christian parishes and their outreaches in the Holy Land. This initiative has been an annual tradition in the Church since its institution by Blessed Pope Paul VI.
According to Paul VI, the collection was created “not only for the Holy Places but above all for those pastoral, charitable, educational, and social works which the Church supports in the Holy Land for the welfare of their Christian brethren and of the local communities.”
The Catholic communities that will benefit from this aid include the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, and other jurisdictions, such as the Greek-Melkite, Coptic, Maronite, Syrian, Chaldean, and Armenian churches.
These funds will be used to help the parochial schools, hospitals, and community centers in these areas to protect and care for their communities, which often include refugees, asylum-seekers, children, and victims of war.
“Living the Christian faith in the Middle East is not at all easy. Especially in Iraq, Syria, and Egypt, where Christian communities have experienced an ‘ecumenism of blood,’ individuals are daily pressured to abandon their land or even their faith,” Sandri stated.
“The unforgettable faces of thousands of children and teens, fleeing violence and persecution in Syria and Iraq, continue to challenge us, even as these young people, thanks to our Collection, are being welcomed by Christian schools and neighboring counties.”
While this collection is a one-time offering on Good Friday, the cardinal noted that there are additional ways of aiding Christians in the Middle East outside of the Lenten and Easter seasons.
“The small Christian presence in the Middle East has great need of the support and attention of the entire Church. Constant prayer is the first and greatest assistance they seek.”
Sandri also said that Holy Land pilgrimages are a substantial way to grow the “vitality of the Church in the Holy Land,” and which also boost local economy.
“At least 30% of the local community in Jerusalem and in Bethlehem live and work thanks to the presence of pilgrims,” Sandri said.
The cardinal encouraged individuals to give generously to this year’s Good Friday Collection, pointing to the words of St. Paul: “for God loves a cheerful giver.”
“As we prepare for Easter, let us renew our commitment to becoming artisans of peace, praying and working that peace may dwell in the heart of every person, especially our brothers and sisters of the Holy Land and the Middle East.”