Letter sent by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, on the occasion of the Good Friday Collection that supports the Church in the Holy Land:
Remembering the Good Friday Collection means recalling a commitment that dates back to apostolic times. St Paul testifies to it in his Letter to the Christians of Galatia: they would have us remember the poor, which very thing I was eager to do (2:10). And he reasserted this to the brethren of Corinth (1 Co 16; 2 Co 8-9) and of Rome: However, I am going… to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem (15,25-26).
The Holy Land expects the brotherhood of the universal Church and desires to reciprocate it in sharing the experience of grace and suffering that marks her journey. She wishes to recognize, first of all, the grace of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, and that of the Papal Visit to Cyprus. These events have increased the interest of the world and the return of a great number of pilgrims in the historical footsteps of the Lord Jesus. Yet also tangible is sorrow at the escalating violence to Christians in Eastern regions whose consequences are felt acutely in the Holy Land. The Christians of the East are experiencing the actuality of martyrdom and are suffering because of the instability or absence of peace. The most disturbing sign of this is their inexorable exodus. Indeed a few positive signs in some situations do not suffice to invert the sorrowful tendency of Christian emigration which impoverishes the entire area, draining it of the most vital forces constituted by the young generations.
It is therefore up to us to join the Holy Father to encourage the Christians of Jerusalem, Israel and Palestine, of Jordan and of the surrounding Eastern countries, with his same words: We must never resign ourselves to the absence of peace. Peace is possible. Peace is urgent. Peace is the indispensable condition for a life worthy of humanity and society. Peace is also the best remedy to avoid emigration from the Middle East (Benedict XVI, Homily at the Mass for the closing of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops).
This appeal for the Collection is inherent in the cause of peace, of which the brothers and sisters of the Holy Land desire to be effective instruments in the hands of the Lord for the good of the whole of the East.
It takes place at the beginning of the Lenten journey towards Easter and can culminate on Good Friday or on the occasions considered most favourable in each local context. However, the Collection everywhere remains the ordinary and indispensable means of promoting the life of Christians in that beloved Land.
The Congregation for the Eastern Churches acts as spokesperson for these Churches’ needs for pastoral care, education, social assistance and charity. Thanks to universal solidarity, they continue to be integrated in the sufferings and hopes of the respective peoples, developing in ecumenical and interreligious collaboration. They will give glory to God and will defend the
rights and duties of the individuals and communities, starting with the personal and public exercise of religious freedom. They will stand beside the poor, without any distinction, contributing to the social promotion of the Middle East. Above all, they will live out the Gospel Beatitudes in forgiveness and reconciliation.
Pope Benedict invites us, however, to go beyond the gesture, although it is praiseworthy, of concrete help. The relationship must become more intense in order to attain a "true spirituality anchored to the Land of Jesus": The more we appreciate the universality and the uniqueness of Christ’s person, the more we look with gratitude to that land where Jesus was born, where he lived and where he gave his life for us. The stones on which our Redeemer walked are still charged with his memory and continue to ‘cry out’ the Good News….. Christians who dwell in the land of Jesus and bear witness to their faith in the Risen One… are called to serve not only as ‘a beacon of faith for the universal Church, but also as a leaven of harmony, wisdom, and equilibrium in the life of a society which traditionally has been, and continues to be, pluralistic, multi-ethnic and multi-religious’ " (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Verbum Domini, 89).
On behalf of the Holy Father I thank the pastors and the faithful of the whole Church, confident that they will confirm their generosity. My sincere gratitude is shared by the Latin Church, gathered in the Patriarchal Diocese of Jerusalem and in the Franciscan Custody, as well as by the Melkite, Maronite, Syrian, Armenian and Chaldean Churches which together make up the Catholic Church of the Holy Land.
With my most fraternal good wishes in Christ Jesus,
Leonardo Card. Sandri