Supporting fellow Christians in the Holy Land

| April 10, 2014

NienstedtBlAs we approach the holiest week of the year, a week in which the whole Church reverently relives the events that led to our salvation, our thoughts naturally turn to the Holy Land.

We are mindful of the fact that followers of Jesus Christ are caught in the middle between the Israelis and the Palestinians, receiving relatively little assistance from either side. The numbers of Christians leaving their homes in search of better living conditions is constantly on the rise. This should be of concern for all Christians, as the legacy of the places associated with Jesus’ life, passion, death and resurrection are not just inanimate objects as you might find in a museum, but rather religious symbols of a living faith that continue to provide meaning today.

A collection is annually taken up in each parish at the Good Friday service in order to support the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, an organization that acts on behalf of the Holy See to promote the pastoral, charitable, educational and social works of Christians living within this most special place. For example, senior care facilities have been built in Bethlehem and Nazareth. Medical assistance also has been provided for the needy.

The Franciscans provide pastoral care in 29 parishes there, care that involves worship, Christian formation, youth and family programs, and the construction of new parish centers in Jericho and Cana. They also currently operate schools offering pre-K through grade 12 education for some 10,000 students, regardless of religion or nationality.

Some 120 young men are preparing to be priests or brothers. Franciscan archaeologists pursue research at the holy places, while the Franciscan Media Center distributes multimedia messaging in more than seven languages throughout the world.

Last but not least, the Franciscans extend their ministry to the large number of pilgrims who visit every year. Truly, the papal Good Friday collection is well deserving of our support.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has for decades urged that a constructive framework be found for resolving the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The bishops are aware that such negotiations are challenging, but as people of faith, they also know that peace is possible.

The present status quo undermines the future of all involved — the Israelis lack security and recognition, while the Palestinians suffer from unemployment and the indignity of occupation. Pope Francis, himself, is giving witness to the hope of a just and lasting solution to the conflict by his scheduled visit to the Holy Land from May 24 to 26. Let us pray that much good will come from this visit.

What I am urging our Catholic people to do this year, in addition to financially supporting the Holy Land collection, is to redouble our prayer and fasting, especially during these last days of Lent, and to offer this up for true and lasting peace in that region. May God grant to all those involved in negotiations the wisdom and courage to build a peace rooted in authentic justice and human dignity.

A most blessed Holy Week and Easter Triduum for you and your loved ones!

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Category: Only Jesus

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