Vatican City, 12 February 2016 (VIS) - Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, has sent his annual letter to bishops around the world regarding the Good Friday collection for the Holy Land, "the East whence comes our redemption", as he writes in the text published yesterday and dated 10 February. "There lie our roots; there lies our heart. We are indebted to those who went out from there, carrying the light of faith to the world. Likewise, we are indebted to those who remained to give witness to that faith, in spite of the conflicts that have always tortured that Land", continues the prelate. "Nonetheless, the Christians in the Holy Land care for the places marked by the passage of Jesus Himself, allowing us to touch, as it were, the truth of our faith".
"This land challenges our charity, as it always has, yet today with a growing urgency. Indeed, every person who lives and works there deserves our prayers and our concrete assistance, so necessary for the continuation of the work of healing wounds and fostering confidently justice and peace. In this Jubilee year, we are urged more than ever to demonstrate our mercy and solicitude for our brothers in the Middle East. Refugees, displaced persons, the elderly, children, and the sick are all in need of our help. In this land of the East, people are dying, being kidnapped and even killed. Many live in agony for their loved ones, or suffer when the family is divided on account of forced migration and exodus. They know the darkness and fear of neglect, of loneliness, of misunderstanding. It is a time of trials and challenges, even of martyrdom. All this necessarily augments our obligation to help, to respond to emergencies, to reconstruct and to invent new ways of meeting the whole gamut of needs".
“'We cannot remain indifferent: God is not indifferent! God cares about mankind, God does not abandon us'. This care is expressed by our open hands, contributing generously. It can also be shown by making pilgrimages without fear to the places of our salvation, visiting also the schools and centers of assistance, where one can draw near to the local Christians and listen to their stories. The Collection for the Holy Land reminds us of an 'ancient' duty, which the history of recent years has made more urgent, but no less a source of the joy that comes from helping our brothers".
The Collection for the Holy Land is destined for Israel, the Palestinian Territories, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Cyprus, Egypt, Ethiopia and Eritrea, Turkey, Iran and Iraq.
In a report included with the letter the Cardinal provides a summary of the activities carried out in the Holy Land by the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land as a result of the 2015 collection, destined both for pilgrims (restoration of some of the Holy Places and works to improve reception), and for local communities (parish family counselling centres, support for artisanal initiatives, study grants, subsidies enabling young families to stay in the Holy Land, schools, and medical and social assistance).
Among the other works this year, special attention has been paid to Christians in Lebanon and Syria who live in situations of extreme need, by sending money to support local communities, the reconstruction of infrastructure and the development of new initiatives.