Four weeks from today, a collection will be taken up throughout the Church at the direction of His Holiness Pope Francis to support the institutions and mission of the Church in the Holy Land. The funds received are forwarded to the Franciscans of the Custody of the Holy Land, who have been caretakers of the holy places for some eight centuries.
As so many of the faithful are fleeing the Holy Land and the Middle East generally, our prayerful and financial support is needed more than ever. The funds received in this universal collection are used in many ways to support and strengthen the faithful who remain in the Holy Land.
Last year, for example, the annual collection benefited the faithful in Iraq and Syria in these ways:
- Supported 29 parishes, four homes for orphans, three academic institutions
- Helped keep 16 schools open for over 10,000 pre-K through grade 12 students
- Funded university scholarships for 295 students
- Provided 398 homes benefiting Christian families
- Helped rehabilitate over 100 homes for Christians families
- Provided senior care facilities in Bethlehem and Nazareth
- Created more than 1,500 jobs in the Holy Land
- Preserved 74 sanctuaries and shrines from the life of Jesus and the prophets
- Supported over 100 men preparing to be priests or brothers
The collection, however, not only benefited Iraq and Syria, but other places in the Holy Land in these ways:
- In Old City of Jerusalem, 80 homes were renovated for Christian families
- Senior care facilities were built in both Bethlehem and Nazareth
- Archeological research was funded at Magdala
- New parish centers were built in Jericho and Cana
As a Knight of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, which provides 75% of the annual budget of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, one of my principle duties is to contribute both spiritually and financially toward the welfare of the Christians in the Holy Land and toward the holy places in the Holy Land. A related duty - and no less important - is to encourage others to join the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre in this work.
As Saint Paul proclaimed the Gospel of Christ to the Gentiles throughout the world, he made it part of his mission to take up collections to assist the poor Christians of Jerusalem:
I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be sped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a little. At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem with aid for the saints. For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem; they were pleased to do it, and indeed they are in debt to them, for if the Gentiles have com to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings. When therefore I have completed this, and have delivered to them what has been raised, I shall go on by way of you to Spain (Romans 15:24-28).
In much the same way, we, too, share in the spiritual blessings of the Christians who live in the land where Jesus walked. Therefore, we, too, should be of service to them in material blessings. Please, in these next few weeks, ask the Lord what contribution you can and ought to make to our brothers and sisters in the Holy Land. In this way, when the Good Friday Collection is taken up four weeks from today, may you and I be pleased to contribute toward it.