Pope’s gift for new pastoral centre in Nazareth
Benedict XVI has offered the sum of one million euros collected in offerings during his trip to Bavaria. The money will be consigned to the Custodian of the Holy Land for a centre near the Basilica of the Annunciation. The pope “hopes that thus Christians in the Holy Land will feel the closeness of all Christians.”

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The sum of one million euros collected from members of the dioceses of Munich, Regensburg and Passau during the visit of Benedict XVI in September, will be donated in the pope’s name to the Custodian of the Holy Land for the construction of a new pastoral centre measuring 30 square metres in Nazareth, near the Basilica of the Annunciation. This was revealed in a statement by the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” that was issued today by the Holy See press office.

The statement said the President of the Council, Mgr Josef Cordes, is currently in the Holy Land, where he will stay until 19 December “to testify to the spiritual nearness of the Holy Father to Christian communities there” and to deliver the funds that will pave the way for the construction of the new centre.

The building will be situated in an area measuring more than 30 square metres and will include areas for youth and for families apart from accommodation, meeting rooms, rooms for catechism, classrooms and a sports ground. The statement said: “It will truly be a centre of life and activity for Christians and a point of reference for pilgrims.”

Through Mgr Cordes, the pope expressed to Christians in Nazareth the hope that “together with Christians of the Holy Land, they may thus feel the closeness and encouragement of all the people of God to maintain their presence in the land of Jesus and to build a culture of love notwithstanding prevalent difficulties and adversities.”

During his stay, Mgr Cordes will meet the Benedictine Fathers of Dormition Abbey, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, and the Apostolic Nuncio, Mgr Antonio Franco. In Bethlehem, he will visit the Bet-Jala Seminary and on Saturday 16 December, the official consignment of the pope’s gift to Fr Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Custodian of the Holy Land, will take place.

The day before his departure, the president of “Cor Unum” will meet the Greek-Melkite Archbishop, Mgr Elias Chacour, to whom he will deliver a gift of 50,000 dollars for the construction of a school in Mughar village, the fruit of a collection undertaken recently at the Vatican when the preview of the film “Nativity” was held.

 The planned school will be special because – apart from being situated in places where the parents of Jesus lived – it will see Christian, Druze and Muslim children sharing desks in the classrooms.