Dear Young People,
Your parochial commitments call on you to involve yourselves in the preparations going on in your parishes so that the faithful may celebrate together the joy of the Resurrection. Among these commitments “in all the churches and oratories, run by diocesan priests and religious Orders, besides prayers for the Church in the Holy Land, a collection is held once a year. This is held on Good Friday or on another day chosen by the Ordinary of that particular place”.
These words by Paul VI refer us back to an appeal made in 1589 by Pope Sisto V and repeated by every Pope since then. Our duty to sustain our Mother Church in Jerusalem has a long history behind it. The Word of God, through the Acts of the Apostles speaks to us about the disciples’ concern for their brethren in Judaea (Acts 11, 29-30) and about the great generosity shown by the Corinthians, which Paul praises in his letter (1Cor 16, 1-6).
Later, for many centuries, as from 1309, the Franciscans were the only protagonists, in Catholic spheres, in the life of the Church in the Holy Land. When in need, they “turned to the rich and to those who were not so rich to ask for donations” (Paul VI, Nobis in animo): in this Holy Land, a land of conflicts, the inhabitants are badly in need of that love which can only be expressed through charity.
They need these roped friars, as they call them, who, following God’s calling have established themselves there even risking martyrdom. They look after those infected with plague, build houses and churches and educate the young. They also treasure ancient ruins and in them they try to find traces of a Man, who, they know, was the Messiah. They show a deep love for the Country and the People as these go hand in hand. They are the mediators between these two realities: holy places and Christian presence. In this country, which is so particular, they keep the profile and the universal vocation of the Church and of the Holy places alive. These are undoubtedly a rich patrimony for all.
It is due to the faithful custody of these sons of St. Francis, that pilgrims, from all corners of the world, can discover the roots of their faith and of their Church. With great generosity and sacrifice, they have done this for seven centuries. In this ecumenical land the Custody has learned to share the place with others and to communicate with brethren from the other Churches. Together with them it has shown hospitality to pilgrims who visit the places where our Lord Jesus Christ was born, died and was raised.
In this land where dialogue with Islam prevails, the Custody has built schools, hospitals and social centers which are open to all. There is also dialogue with Hebrewism through initiatives on cultural and archaeological level. It is a land of political and religious conflicts which have gone on for years and which have torn the lives of these two peoples. The Friars are here: in this land where the fact of being a Christian is not taken for granted. In spite of everything, being present in this land, in the name of the Church, and living in the places which have witnessed the story of the Revelation, remains their principal vocation.
All this shows how necessary the Good Friday collection, our major source of help, is. It is important for you to know how this collection started, where the money goes, what the Custody in the Holy Land does and the projects which, through the generosity of Christians in all parts of the world, are presently being sustained. Explain all this to your parish priests and to your fellow parishioners. This is an act of love towards your Church, towards your local Church and towards the Mother Church in Jerusalem.