Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The annual Good Friday collection for the Christians of the Holy Land began today. For the Congregation for Eastern Churches, this “is a proper occasion for the faithful to be one with our brethren in the Holy Land and the Middle East. Unfortunately, from those territories, [comes] the outcry of thousands of persons who are deprived of everything, at times even of their own human dignity”.
The statement, signed by Card Leonardo Sandri and Cyril Vasil, S.J., respectively prefect and secretary of the Congregation, notes “with particular attention two Basilicas, the one of the Nativity, in Bethlehem, built on the grotto where Jesus was born and the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem, built on the tomb of Jesus”. The two are sites where people can medicate on the incarnation of Jesus, on God becoming man.
“Last year, both Basilicas were restored, thanks to the collaboration and the generosity of so many persons of good will. Building the Church in the Holy Land – through the edifices of cult and the living stones: the Christian faithful – is the responsibility of all the particular Churches of Christianity, recognizing that the Christian faith had its first impulse from the Mother Church in Jerusalem.”
The Catholic community of the Holy Land, “with all its facets, [. . .] has a special vocation to live the faith in a multi-religious, political, social and cultural context. Notwithstanding, the challenges and the insecurities, the parishes continue their pastoral service with a preferential attention to the poor. We hope against hope, that the schools serve as a place of encounter for the Christians and the Muslims, where they prepare a future of mutual respect and collaboration; the hospitals and clinics, the hospices and meeting centres continue to welcome the suffering and those in need, refugees and displaced, persons of all ages and religions struck by the horror of war.
“We cannot forget the thousands of families who fled from the violence of the war in Syria and Iraq, among whom children and youth, a great number of them of schooling-age, who appeal to our generosity in order to resume their scholastic life and may dream of a better future.
“One particular though, at this moment, goes to the small Christian Community in the Middle East, which continues to sustain the faith among the displaced persons from Iraq and Syria and among the refugees in Jordan and Lebanon who also are assisted by their Pastors, religious and volunteers from different countries.”
“Let us show them concretely our closeness, through our constant prayer and through our monetary aid, particularly after the liberation of Nineveh Plain. Most Iraqi Christians and Syrians want to return to their own land where their houses were destroyed, with schools, hospitals and churches devastated. Let us not leave them alone.”
The statement comes with a list of expenses paid for thanks to the 2017 collection, namely US$ 5,531,899.22 and EUR 1,423,251.78.
The contributions were given “to seminaries, houses of religious [. . . training] and cultural institutions in the areas of competence, supporting in various ways (scholarships, university fees and any other health necessity), also in Rome, young seminarians and priests , men and women religious, and where compatible with available funds, some lay people. The new boarding college, opened two years ago to accommodate women religious from different Eastern countries, hosts 27 female students. Approximately 300 students benefit from the scholarship, guests in 7 colleges under the jurisdiction of the Dicastery.”
” Furthermore, the Dicastery contributes to the support of the Pontifical Oriental Institute, a higher academic institution with two faculties, Oriental Ecclesiastical Sciences and Eastern Canon Law”. The total cost for education amounts to US$ 600,000 and EUR 2,236,810, including US$ 783,000 and EUR 5,000 for priests, deacons, men and women religious, and seminarians in Syria.
For its part, the Custody of the Holy Land, released a report on its expenses to conserve and revitalise the holy places of Christianity in the Land of Jesus and the Middle East.
The objectives of the Franciscan mission include support and development of local Christian minorities, the conservation and care of archaeological sites and shrines, emergency interventions, liturgy in places of worship, apostolic works and assistance to pilgrims.
The many works include the important restoration of the tomb of the Risen Christ, in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, done in collaboration with the Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic communities and civic authorities.
In Jerusalem, work included the Terra Sancta Museum, a modern museum facility to highlight the Christian artistic, archaeological and cultural heritage in the Holy Land.
In Bethlehem, restoration work on the Basilica of the Nativity was well underway in collaboration with other Church communities and the Palestinian National Authority.
In Emmaus, renovation included work on eight rooms, public washrooms, laundry, sitting room and chapel in the local convent (about 250 m2) as well as new equipment for the kindergarten.
In Nazareth, restructuring was done to the sacristy of the lower basilica and of the foundations of the sanctuary.
Some 390 four-year scholarships were provided to students attending various universities (Bethlehem, Hebrew University, Bir Zeit, Amman). Some 178 subsidies were given to students in difficulty.
In Bethlehem and Jerusalem, support was given to a parish family counselling centre, to the Franciscan Boys’ Home, which hosts more than 20 boys (aged 6-12) from families in difficulty.
In Jerusalem, restructuring continues on houses in the Old City with the aim of improving living conditions of the residents, including the restructuring of seven houses (four in 2015, three in 2016), the partial restructuring of six houses (two in 2015 and four in 2016), and the restructuring of the external coverings of eight houses.
The Dar al Consul renovation project includes restructuring of the residential complex in the Old City, with 41 apartments and a ground floor which is currently not in use. Thirty-three buildings are being restructured (18 completed). The restructuring of external covering of eight houses (five completed) continues.
In Tumaian Palace, there are plans to widen the building with the realisation of two new floors and 800 m2 for residential use.
The widening of a building is in Abu Geries planned with 750m2 set aside for offices, restaurants and shops.
The Saint James housing project in Beit Hanina includes a residential complex of six buildings with 42 flats on 3 levels. Permits were obtained for two extra floors in each building adding 24 more flats.
In Beitfage (Mount of Olives), the widening of an existing residential complex to add ten new flats in completion phase.
The Franciscan Neighbourhood in Jaffa obtained permits to build 124 flats for Christian families living in the parish. The total area will cover circa 10,000 m2.
In addition to work on the chapel and some facilities for social use, plans in Nazareth include a housing project of 80 flats for young families.