Vatican Collects for Holy Land

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — As Catholics remember the death of Jesus on Good Friday, they also are asked to remember the Christians who still live in the land where Jesus lived and rose from the dead.

In a letter to the world’s bishops, urging them to support the annual collection for the Holy Land, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri said all Catholics share the responsibility of the Christians in the Holy Land to keep the church alive there and preserve the sites associated with Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.

Cardinal Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, coordinates the Holy Land collection, which most parishes take up on Good Friday. His office also coordinates the committee that distributes the funds.

Father Leon Lemmens, an official at the congregation, said that in the past few years, the collection has averaged about $25 million a year.

Along with Cardinal Sandri’s appeal, the Vatican published a report March 8 on the projects funded in 2008-2009 in Israel, the West Bank and Jordan.

Many of the projects combine archeological studies and restoration of Christian shrines with the improvement of pilgrim facilities and convents at the same site, for example at the Shrine of the Visitation in Ain Karem and the Convent of St. Lazarus in Bethany. Similar, but more extensive work is going on in Magdala, the presumed home of Mary Magdalene, which will include a pilgrim itinerary designed to illustrate daily life in the town at the time of Jesus.

The 2008-2009 projects also included the renewal or expansion of facilities before Pope Benedict XVI’s May 2009 visit to the Holy Land.

Funds collected around the world help pay for university scholarships for Christian students in the region, support for craft-making businesses, social and medical services for the poor, financial assistance to struggling parishes and schools and a project to build apartments for poor families and young couples.

In addition, the collection helps support the faculty of biblical sciences and archeology at a Franciscan-run institute in Jerusalem, the Franciscan Media Center and the Magnificat Institute, a new music school with 180 students.

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