As in past years, a special collection will be taken in Catholic churches throughout the world on Good Friday to support Christians in the Holy Land.
The Vatican has overseen the annual Holy Land — “Pro Terra Sancta” — collection since 1974, when St. Paul VI established Good Friday as the day for it to be taken up by parishes and bishops around the world.
This year, Good Friday falls on April 7. U.S. Catholics can donate to the collection online as well as at churches.
The collection is traditionally split, with 65% going to the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, which has maintained the Holy Places of Christianity in the region for more than 800 years. The remaining 35% is given to the Dicastery for the Eastern Churches to support seminarians and priests as well as educational and cultural activities. Last year the collection brought in over $9 million.
Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, prefect of the Dicastery for the Eastern Churches, wrote in a March 24 appeal letter that Pope Francis asked him to extend an invitation to “solidarity with the Christian community of the Holy Land,” keeping alive the memory of Christianity’s origins.
“As the prophet Isaiah recalls: ‘Consider the rock from which you were hewn’ (Is 51:1),” the archbishop wrote.
“The Church spread throughout the world with the preaching of the apostles, and each of us through baptism has become a stone called to remain united to the foundation, which is Christ the Lord, in order to construct a spiritual building. In Jerusalem are our wellsprings, and we want to remain united with the brothers and sisters who continue to testify to the Gospel there.”
Archbishop Gugerotti said the massive February earthquake in Syria and Turkey — which was felt in Jerusalem — has led to a renewed need for the charity that Christians in the Middle East and the Holy Land provide. Christians in the Holy Land “remain sources of hope by caring for the littlest ones, educating school children and youth, accompanying mothers in difficulty, attending to the elderly and the sick, as well as offering housing projects for new families and creating jobs, so that it is worthwhile continuing to stay in the Places of Salvation.”
Apart from the recent difficulties caused by war and the earthquake, Archbishop Gugerotti also recalled an incident last month whereby a vandal desecrated an image of Jesus in a Catholic church in Jerusalem.
“That mutilated crucifix invites us to recognize the pain of so many of our brothers and sisters who have seen the bodies of their loved ones tortured under the rubble or hit by bombs,” Archbishop Gugerotti wrote.
“The precious presence of the Friars of the Custody of the Holy Land not only guarantees the maintenance of the sanctuaries but also safeguards the life of the Christian communities, often tempted to lose their vocation to be Easter people in the lands blessed by the presence of the Redeemer.”
In past years, the collection has been used to finance numerous projects in the Holy Land including renovations of historic buildings, scholarships for students, housing for the needy and young couples, and emergency assistance for victims of war. The territories benefitting from the donations include Jerusalem, Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Turkey, Iran, and Iraq.
In a report on its activities in 2021, the Custody of the Holy Land noted the strain on its finances caused, in part, by a precipitous drop in tourism numbers due to the pandemic.
It said: “Ever since the end of February 2020 we have found ourselves without pilgrims, and this means serious economic difficulties for the local Christian communities, for the Christian families, and also for the Custody.
“In the meantime, we are trying to continue the mission that has been entrusted to us, knowing that divine providence, which has willed our presence here, will continue to take care of us.”