Letter of the Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches
February 10, 2016
Good Friday is the day when evil seemed to triumph, as the Innocent One suffered death on the Cross. It is a day that never seems to end in the Holy Land, where apparently interminable violence must be endured. Broadening our the gaze to the whole world, it is no less difficult to give wings to hope for a serene future.
The human heart, restless and troubled, seeks light, life and hope; it wants to walk in brotherhood, together with fellow human beings. Desiring to set out anew, it looks beyond its present condition, longing for a reality that is greater and truer: a salvation already won, yet ever to be striven for.
The Good Friday collection rekindles in us this sure hope along with a clearer perception of the evil that surrounds us. It turns our gaze to the Holy Land, to the East whence comes our Redemption. There lie our roots; there lies our heart. We are indebted to those who went out from there, carrying the light of faith to the world. Likewise, we are indebted to those who remained to give witness to that faith, in spite of the conflicts that have always tortured that Land.
Nonetheless, the Christians in the Holy Land care for the places marked by the passage of Jesus Himself, allowing us to touch, as it were, the truth of our faith. This Land challenges our charity, as it always has, yet today with a growing urgency. Indeed, every person who lives and works there deserves our prayers and our concrete assistance, so necessary for the continuation of the work of healing wounds and fostering confidently justice and peace.
In this Jubilee year, we are urged more than ever to demonstrate our mercy and solicitude for our brothers in the Middle East. Refugees, displaced persons, the elderly, children, and the sick are all in need of our help. In this land of the East, people are dying, being kidnapped and even killed. Many live in agony for their loved ones, or suffer when the family is divided on account of forced migration and exodus. They know the darkness and fear of neglect, of loneliness, of misunderstanding. It is a time of trials and challenges, even of martyrdom. All this necessarily augments our obligation to help, to respond to emergencies, to reconstruct and to invent new ways of meeting the whole gamut of needs. Such acts of mercy, all necessary and urgent, allow us each day to experience that “if the Lord does not build the house, in vain do its builders labor”.
We live clinging to the Cross of Good Friday, but sustained by the light of the Resurrection. The Holy Land is a place of dialogue, whose inhabitants never cease dreaming of constructing bridges, and in which the Christian community lives to proclaim the Gospel of Peace. It is a Land of “ecumenism of blood” and at the same time a place of extraordinary normality.
“We cannot remain indifferent: God is not indifferent! God cares about mankind, God does not abandon us” (Pope Francis). This care is expressed by our open hands, contributing generously. It can also be shown by making pilgrimages without fear to the places of our salvation, visiting also the schools and centers of assistance, where one can draw near to the local Christians and listen to their stories.
The Collection for the Holy Land reminds us of an “ancient” duty, which the history of recent years has made more urgent, but no less a source of the joy that comes from helping our brothers.
In conclusion, I assure you of the deepest gratitude of the Holy Father Francis and that of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, which seeks to accompany our brothers and sisters of the East with attentive care. Kindly extend this heartfelt thanks to all the Christian faithful of your particular Church.
With most cordial and fraternal greetings in our Lord, I remain
Leonardo Card. Sandri
Cyril Vasil’, S.J.
Custody of the Holy Land summary report on projects 2014-2015
For many centuries the Custody of the Holy Land has been committed to the conservation and reviving of the holy places of Christianity in the Land of Jesus and in the entire Middle East. Among the various objectives of the Franciscan mission, we mention the support and the progress of the Christian presence in the conservation and development of the archaeological sites and shrines, the interventions in cases of emergencies, the liturgy in the places of cult, the apostolic works and the assistance of pilgrims. Also for the year 2014, the Franciscan presence in the Holy Land has been manifested through the projects, programmes and executing of the following projects and works:
I. Initiatives in favour of pilgrims
II. Initiatives in favour of the local community
III. Other initiatives
I. INITIATIVES IN FAVOUR OF PILGRIMS
Garden of Olives
– The remaking of the waterproofing protection of the Grotto of the Apostles.
– The realisation of new installation of illumination and audio of the church.
– The realisation of archaeological excavations, in assistance to the Israeli Antiquities Authority.
– In course of realisation is the tunnel connecting the area between the Basilica and the Kidron Valley.
II Station Via Dolorosa
Installation of modern shelving and the realisation of the internal furnishings for the consultation of texts in the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum.
· HOLY SEPULCHRE
– Installation of a new protection for the frescoes of the chapel of the Finding of the Holy Cross.
· VII STATION
Jesus falls for the second time
– In phase of realisation a visitor center in the rooms adjacent to the chapel. Such an intervention calls for a complete restructuring and requalification of the existing environment, as well as the consolidation of the structures.
· VIII station
Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem who weep on Him
– In phase of realisation the internal restructuring of the church.
· SAINT JOHN IN MONTANA – Ein Karem
Place of the birth of John the Baptist
– In progress the works of reconstruction of the roof of the church.
– In progress the works of restructuring and consolidation of the old Friary for the realisation of the new convent of the sisters.
· Visitation – Ein Karem
– Works of restoration of the Lower Chapel of the Shrine.
· FRIARY OF Beit Fage
– Reconstruction of the apse of the Shrine.
– Intervention of the restructuring of the interior of the friary and of the Shrine.
– Works of painting in the interior of the Shrine.
· Basilica OF THE ANNUNCIATION
– Installation of the new illumination for processions, along the boundary wall of the friary.
– Realisation of the waterproofing of the Grotto damaged by the infiltration of water and humidity.
– Conclusion of the installation of the lift that will permit disabled persons to go up to the upper section of the Basilica.
· ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE
– In course of restoration the mosaics of the byzantine church on the house of Peter.
– Conclusion of the works of adjustment of the system of videocameras for the control of the archaeological site.
– Realisation of an alternative access to the sacristy and recovery of the basement in order to be used as a store.
– In course of realisation the projection of a new system of air-conditioning of the Basilica and the adjustment of the large external windows with the aim of saving energy.
· SHRINE OF THE TRANSFIGURATION
– Termination of the realisation of the new parking lot close to the main gate (1250 m2) – Phase I.
MOUNT NEBO (JORDAN)
· SHRINE AND MEMORIAL OF MOSES
– Conclusion of the project of the “New roof for the Memorial of Moses”. The project has interested the realisation of a new roofing for the entire Basilica and an expositive route for the mosaics that were discovered during the phase of the archaeological dig. Besides a new sacristy has also been realised, together with new electrical and mechanical systems.
– In phase of conclusion the works of restoration and conservation of the mosaics of the ancient external walls.
II) INITIATIVES IN FAVOUR OF THE LOCAL COMMUNITY
1. SOCIAL ACTIVITIES
Scholarships and subsidies
Financing of 390 University Scholarships for a period of four years, distributed in various Universities: Bethlehem, Hebrew at Jerusalem and Haifa, Bir Zeit, Amman and others.
Financing of 178 subsidies for students in difficulty.
•Parish family counselling. Continuation of the projects to sustain a parish Family counselling centre, which supports the principal needs of families on the level of their welfare.
•Franciscan Boys Home. Continuation of the project aimed for the benefit of more than twenty young boys between six and twelve years of age, coming from poor families or families facing problems.
•Medical and social assistance. Since a national medical assistance is lacking, the project aims at giving medical assistance to families who live in serious economical difficulties.
•Providing jobs in the restructuring of homes. This is a project of restructuring of houses belonging to the most needy families. The restorations are carried out by local jobless personnel.
Sustaining artisan initiatives
A project of sustaining ten small artisan initiatives with the acquisition of spare parts, machines for production, and auxiliary materials for the guarantee of safety during this kind of activity.
– Laboratory for ceramics
(Bethlehem) In course of realisation, the laboratory for ceramics in the compound of St. Francis Millennium Centre, adjacent to the laboratories for woodwork and ceramics which are already functioning.
– Catholic Action Centre
The centre for Catholic Action of Bethlehem offers numerous sporting and recreational activities to young people, families and elderly persons. It has been the object of a series of interventions of renewal.
– Cana of Galilee
In Cana of Galilee the realisation of the construction of a new small school is on course. This school will permit students of the local Christian school to conclude the complete cycle of studies (Bagrut) remaining in Cana. At the present moment these students are obliged to conclude the last years of high school in towns nearby. The complex will serve also a parish centre.
Youth Development Centre
In Jerusalem we are in the phase of realisation of a centre for activity and formation of young people, a space of about 250m2 in the interior of the Old City (Moussa Afandi Building).
– Terra Santa School for Girls (Jerusalem)
Conclusion of the restructuring of the rooms in the basement, by the recovery of spaces that were unused.
– Terra Santa School (Jerusalem)
In course of realisation the restructuring of part of the interior areas of the school.
APARTMENTS FOR NEEDY PERSONS AND YOUNG COUPLES
– Old City. Continuation of the work of restructuring of houses in the Old City with the aim of improving the conditions of life of the residents. In 2014 a total of 24 habitable units have been restructured.
– St. James housing project at Beit Hanina: this is a complex of 6 buildings with a total of 42 apartments divided on 3 levels.
§ We have obtained permits to construct two extra floors in each of the buildings, for a total of 24 apartments.
– The Franciscan Neighbourhood
We have obtained permission to construct 124 apartments destined for the Christian families of the parish.
– Housing Project in Nazareth
Project for the realisation of a residential complex, where besides the Chapel and other buildings for social use, we plan to construct 80 apartments destined for young families.
2. OTHER CULTURAL INITIATIVES
– Studium Biblicum Franciscanum. Every year the Custody of the Holy Land supports economically the Faculty of Biblical Sciences and Archaeology of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum of Jerusalem. If offers around 30 scholarships to students coming from various dioceses, for the entire length of the period of their studies.
– Christian Media Centre. The Custody has taken the initiative to give a new name to the Franciscan Media Centre, founded in 2008. As from December 2014 it is called the Christian Media Centre, and it offers various services on the Christian presence in the Holy Land in the main languages.
– Magnificat Institute. In a few years of activity, the Magnificat has become a school of music, in grade to prepare various students coming from different cultures. The Magnificat promotes activities of research and cultural manifestations on the local and international level.
III) OTHER INITIATIVES
Besides the initiatives realised and projected in Israel and in the Palestinian Territories, the Custody has given particular attention to Christians in Lebanon and Syria, who are living in a situation of extreme need, by sending money to sustain local communities, to reconstruct buildings and develop new initiatives.» custodia.org