03/04/2020, 17.32
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Christians urged to remember their duty to help the Holy Land

Like every year, the Congregation for the Oriental Churches issued its appeal for the Pro-Terra Sancta Collection, which is held on Good Friday to raise money to help the place where Jesus lived. The Congregation also released its report on how aid money was spent last year.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, Cardinal Leandro Sandri, has released a letter to the bishops around the world as part of the dicastery’s annual appeal for the Pro-Terra Sancta Collection, which is normally done on Good Friday.

The goal is to raise funds to offer aid to the land where Jesus lived, which is still the scene of “Long and exhausting wars” which “produce millions of refugees and strongly influence the future of entire generations.”

The dicastery also released its report noting that the Collection “is the main source of funds for the maintenance of the life around the Holy Places” and is the instrument the Church has given herself to stand alongside the ecclesial communities of the Middle East.

The report notes that in 2019 the Congregation received US$ 6,929,209.64from the Pro-Terra Sancta Collection. In 2019 the Custody received US$ 1,350,000.00 for previous years. The total was US$ 8,279,209.64.

“The generosity that the Catholic faithful express towards their brothers and sisters in the Middle East though the Collection can solve many problems, but prayer and moral support are even more necessary. We therefore invite you to ‘adopt’ a Christian from the Middle East, even if you do not know his/her name, and pray for him/her throughout the year 2020.”

“Thanks to the Collection, contributions can be made to seminaries, religious houses of formation and cultural institutions in the territories of competence, supporting in various forms (scholarships, university fees and health needs) young seminarians and priests, men and women religious and, depending on the funds available, and some lay people. About 300 students benefiting from scholarships are hosted in 7 colleges under the jurisdiction of the Dicastery in Rome. A new college that opened four years ago for nuns from different Eastern countries welcomes 32 female students this year.”

The dicastery spent US$ 2,310,681.00 for the training of seminarians, priests and nuns in Rome, maintenance of colleges; US$ 915,571.00 for the Pontifical Oriental Institute (PIO), and US$ 50,000 on extraordinary subsidies for cultural collaboration. The total was US$ 3,276,252.00.

For its part, the Custody of the Holy Land, in a "summary report" lists the works carried out last year for the support and development of the local Christian minority, the conservation and enhancement of archaeological sites and shrines, for emergencies, liturgies, apostolic works as well as assistance to pilgrims.

These works, among the hundreds, include those in:

- Emmaus Qubeibeh: the shrine of Saints Simeon and Cleophas, for the renovation of some areas of the monastery to welcome the inter-obediential community.

- Ain Karem: shrine of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist.

- Bethany: at shrine of the House di Martha, Mary and Lazarus, ongoing restoration and enhancement of the Byzantine and medieval remains of the monastery at Bethany through the recovery of degraded areas; training and employment of 10 young Palestinians for restoration work; support for the entrepreneurial activities of the local women's association; an educational project with primary schools to learn about local religious and archaeological sites (supported by Association Pro Terra Sancta, ATS).

- Bethlehem: collaboration with other ecclesial communities and the Palestinian National Authority for the restoration of the Basilica of the Nativity.

- Jericho: shrine of the Good Shepherd; restoration of the school stadium; construction of 10 new bathrooms, a stage for various school activities, four new classrooms (with air conditioning to cope with Jericho’s temperatures which can reach 50°C), renovation of the school library.

- Jerusalem: Basilica of Gethsemane: completion of the tunnel project and elevators for pilgrim groups to connect the basilica area to the Cedron Valley via a pedestrian pathway; completion of the renovation of the hermitages available for hermitical experiences; planning the service centre for pilgrims in the Cedron Valley.

- Jerusalem: Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre of Our Lord: implementation of structural consolidation of the rock of the Grotto of the Invention of the Holy Cross following instrumental investigations and in-depth analysis; replacement of the monastery lift/elevator in the Chapel of the Apparition; study in collaboration with the Sapienza University (Rome, Italy) and the Venaria Restoration Centre (Turin, Italy) of the restoration of the Basilica's floor and infrastructures (with the Greek and Armenian Communities).

- Jerusalem: Terra Sancta Museum: ongoing structural consolidation of the premises to complete the museum area at the Shrine of the Flagellation; ongoing construction of a modern museum centre for the enhancement of the Franciscan artistic, archaeological and cultural heritage covering an area of about 2,500 square metres with an archaeological museum about places of the Bible in Palestine (Monastery of the Flagellation) (third phase) and an historical Museum about the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land (Monastery of St Saviour).

- Jerusalem Old City: ongoing renovation work of houses with the aim of improving the living conditions of the residents.

- Bethlehem: Boys’ Home for 27 socially children, including ten interns in social difficulty; renovation of heating system; scholarships and subsidies; funds for 490 four-year university scholarships (225 from the Custody and 265 from the Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land (FFHL) in different universities (Bethlehem, Hebrew, Bir Zeit, Amman); 178 grants for students in financial difficulty.

- Bethlehem: support for craft businesses; purchase of spare parts, production equipment, aids for securing the activities of ten small craft businesses;

- Bethlehem: ongoing support for parish family counselling; support for more than 20 children (ages 6-12) from families in difficulty; medical assistance for families in serious financial difficulties; renovation of homes of needy families (with FFHL support).

- Bethlehem: works in favour of parish communities: Catholic Action, special general maintenance of bathrooms in parish swimming pool area for local use;

- Ramleh: flats for the needy and young couples.

- Syria, Jordan and Lebanon: intensified assistance for Syrians and Iraqis, Christians and others, in extreme need, through the Custody of the Holy Land with external financial support and collaboration, especially that of ATS.

- Lebanon: reception and temporary support for 14 Iraqi families in Deir Mimas and over 47 in the area of Harissa and Jounieh; educational help for 28 Iraqi children and young Iraqis in Deir Mimas, over 35 in the Harissa area and almost 65 in Jounieh; aid to 40 young Syrians in Jounieh and Beirut.

- Syria: help through the parishes of Aleppo, Damascus, Knayeh, Yakubiyah and Latakia: help to the Aleppo emergency centre for the parish and Terra Sancta College (food parcels for 1,200 families per month; emergency health care; funding surgery for Christians of all denominations; working with other Churches to provide support in pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum mother-and-child care); aid project for Christian, Orthodox and Catholic couples engaged to be married (wedding gifts: one-year home rental, electricity, one or two-room furniture, home repair, etc.); free funeral service, burial service, coffin purchase; support for families of priests and poor families, all Catholic and Orthodox rites.

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