The eyes of the world have been riveted since Feb. 11 on the Vatican and the Catholic Church. The announced resignation of then Pope Benedict XVI and the subsequent preparations for the conclave have called attention to the immense impact that the Catholic Church has on the world-wide stage and in the lives of billions of believers.
And, the role of this Church in defending the faith and guarding its heritage for generations to come is no more uniquely found than it is in the Holy Land. Here, pilgrims and visitors alike are able to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, witnessing the places where the Savior ministered, suffered, died and rose from the dead.
Here, too, one can imagine and encounter the beginning of the Church, empowered by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost at these very sacred sites, a Church which now is found in every corner of the world.
Facing many challenges
The historical churches and monuments located in the Holy Land are maintained by the Latin communities of the Patriarchal Diocese of Jerusalem and the Franciscan Custody, in addition to the Melkite, Maronite, Syrian, Armenian, Coptic and Chaldean faithful who live, work and worship there.
Theirs has not been an easy lot because of the violence and political instability in the area. Often these Christians find themselves being discriminated against by the very neighbors with whom they share the land of Jesus.
For years now, one of the great sources of assistance for our Christian brothers and sisters who abide in the Holy Land is the Good Friday collection. It provides much-needed financial assistance necessary to maintain the holy sites as well as support for the communities that dwell there.
The funds collected also provide immediate relief to the catastrophic consequences of war and other emergencies. Through a qualified network of pastoral, educational and health care specialists, these resources come to the aid of families, frequently saving the lives of the old, the sick and the disabled.
In addition, aid is provided to those without work, especially the youth who long for a brighter future.
Reaching out to help
The collection offers the hope of stemming some of the incessant exodus of Christians from their motherland as well as hope for the displaced and the refugee. A significant part of the proceeds is used to fund student scholarships, to help small businesses and to build schools and sports centers for children.
I urge our Catholic faithful to be generous in giving to the Good Friday collection. It is most appropriate that on this holy day when we commemorate the saving death of our Lord and Savior, we also reach out with prayerful and financial help to those who have oversight in maintaining those important shrines, churches and convents that are found in the land where he died and rose.
God bless you!