The Middle East’s "little flock of Christians" need the support of churches around the world
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - "The little flock of Christians" in the Middle East, where " senseless hatred seems to prevail..., along with the helpless desperation of those who have lost everything and have been expulsed from the land of their ancestors", is united by an ecumenism of blood that exceeds divisions, but now more than ever needs the spiritual and material support of all the churches of the world.
The reminder is contained in a letter issued by the Vatican Congregation for Eastern Churches to all the bishops of the world calling for support for the annual Collection for the Holy Land. A plea for help for a number of initiatives that support the churches and ecclesiastical institutions; ordinary and extraordinary subsidies for worship, church life and human development; funding for specific school activities at all levels and for formation and emergencies which in 2014 included interventions in Syria and Iraq.
"The season of Lent - reads the letter signed by the prefect, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri and Secretary Cyril Vasil ', SJ - favors a meditation full of love for the Holy Places which were present at the origin of our faith and in which the first Christian communities, following Christ, Salus Mundi, were gathered. Already St Paul remembers them, when he warmly exhorts his audience to "to make some contribution for the poor..." (cf. Rm 15:25-26; Gal 2:10; 1 Cor 16; 2 Cor 8-9).
Like the Apostle, so also Pope Francis has particularly at heart the sufferings of so many of our brothers and sisters in this corner of the world, a place made sacred by the Blood of the Lamb. "[Their suffering] aggravated in the past months because of the continuing hostilities in the region ... cries out to God and it calls for our commitment to prayer and concrete efforts to help in any way possible." (Pope Francis, Letter to the Christians in the Middle East, 21 December 2014).
Presently, there are millions of refugees fleeing Syria and Iraq, where the roar of arms does not cease and the way of dialogue and concord seems to be completely lost. Senseless hatred seems to prevail instead, along with the helpless desperation of those who have lost everything and have been expulsed from the land of their ancestors.
If the Christians of the Holy Land are encouraged to resist, to the degree possible, the understandable temptation to flee, the faithful throughout the world are asked to take their plight to heart. Also involved are brothers in Christ who belong to various confessions: an ecumenism of blood which points toward the triumph of unity: "ut unum sint"! (Jn 17:21).
This year presents a still more precious opportunity to become pilgrims in faith after the example of the Holy Father, who in May of last year visited this patch of land, so dear to Christians, Jews and Muslims alike. It is a chance to become promoters of dialogue through peace, prayer and sharing of burdens, because "the way of peace is strengthened if we realize that we are all of the same stock and members of the one human family; if we never forget that we have the same Father in heaven and that we are all his children, made in his image and likeness." (Homily of Pope Francis during the Holy Mass at the International Stadium of Amman, 24 May 2014).
The little flock of Christians, spread throughout the Middle East is called "to promote dialogue, to build bridges in the spirit of the Beatitudes (cf. Mt 5:3:12), and to proclaim the Gospel of peace..." (Ibid., Letter to Christians in the Middle East).
Only in the unity of the Spirit and in fraternal charity with all disciples of Christ, can the Church, His Spouse, bear witness to hope before her children who daily live the same sufferings of the Lord, humiliated and abandoned.
I trust that the Good Friday Collection will be welcomed by all of the local Churches, resulting in an ever greater participation in the solidarity coordinated by our Congregation in order to guarantee the Holy Land with necessary support, both for the demands of ordinary ecclesial life and for particular necessities".
The proceeds from the Collection include contributions to local and international ecclesiastical and civil institutions, with the coordination of the Palestinian Authority and housing projects that help young families remain in the Holy Land. There is also support for a capillary school network, especially through the parishes, which favors a widespread and qualified degree of schooling, much appreciated at ecumenical and interreligious level. It also provides contributions for seminars, houses for religious formation and cultural institutions in the indicated Territories.
The Letter was accompanied by a summary report released by the Custody of the Holy Land on the projects and works currently funded by the Collect. These include the restoration, maintenance and waterproofing of the roof of the Basilica of Gethsemane, the restoration of the mosaics of the domes and the floor of the basilica; the continuation of the ordinary and extraordinary work and maintenance of the Holy Sepulchre; the construction of the new garden in the Cenacle convent, with areas for celebration and to welcome pilgrims, in an area of approximately 650m2; the first phase of construction of a parish center and a school in Cana, to meet the needs of parishioners; financing of 295 university scholarships for the duration of four years, distributed in different universities: Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Haifa, Bir Zeit, Amman and others; the project to support ten small craft enterprises with the purchase of spare parts, production equipment, safety equipment; the completion of laboratories for the production of olive, wood and mother of pearl in Bethlehem; the completion of a recreational space for the children of the parish of Nazareth.