The preparation for Easter once again launches the appeal to the Pastors of the universal Church to support the Holy Land by offering prayers, attentive participation and practical generosity.
Sensitivity to the needs of the Church in Jerusalem and in the Middle East finds its motivation in the "we" of the Church. This sensitivity becomes help, like the relief sent to the brethren who l ived in Judea (Acts 11:29-30); remembrance, like St Paul's invitation in his Letter to the Galatians (2:10), and a collection that responds to precise practical instructions (1 Corinthians16:1-6) and is described as the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints (2 Corinthians 8-9 and Romans 15).
Our appeal this year is inspired by the pilgrimage "in the historical footsteps of Jesus" which the Holy Father Benedict XVI made last May. I had the honor of accompanying him and of sharing the pastoral, ecumenical and interreligious concern that enlivened his words and actions.
Together with the ecclesial community of Israel and Palestine I listened to "a voice" of brotherhood and peace. Strongly emphasizing the ceaseless problem of emigration, His Holiness recalled that "in the Holy Land there is room for everyone"! And he urged the authorities to support the Christian presence but at the same time assured the Christians of this land of the Church’s solidarity.
At Holy Mass in Bethlehem, he then encouraged the baptized to be "a bridge of dialogue and constructive cooperation in the building of a culture of peace to replace the present stalemate of fear, aggression and frustration" so that the local Churches might be "workshops of dialogue, tolerance and hope, as well as of solidarity and practical charity".
The Year for Priests involves the beloved priests and seminarians of the whole Church, together with their respective Bishops, in a commitment to the Holy Places. Let us, therefore, return in our hearts to the Upper Room in Jerusalem where the Teacher and Lord "loved us to the end"; to that place where the Apostles with the Holy Mother of the Risen Crucified One experienced the first Pentecost. We firmly believe in the "flame" of the Holy Spirit "which is never extinguished" and which the Living One sp reads in abundance. And let us work tirelessly to guarantee a future to Christians in the place where "the kindness and humanity" of Our God and Father first appeared.
The Pope has entrusted to the Congregation for the Eastern Churches the task of keeping alive interest in that blessed Land. In his name I urge everyone to reinforce the solidarity that has been shown so far. In fact, the Christians of the East have a responsibility that belongs to the universal Church, in other words the responsibility to preserve the "Christian origins", the places and people who are the sign of them, so that those origins may always be the reference of the Christian mission, the measure of the ecclesial future and its security. They therefore deserve the support of the entire Church.
I enclose an informative document that illustrates all that the Custody of the Holy Land has been able to achieve with the 2009 Collection. And I recall that it is always thanks to the annual Collection that various interventions can be carried out by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and by the Eastern Catholic Churches in Israel and in Palestine.
I pray the Lord that he may lavishly reward those who love the Land that gave birth to him: it must remain, thanks to the "lively and youthful Church" which works there, a witness down the centuries to the great works of salvation.
In communion with the pastors and Christians of the Holy Land, I wish you an Easter filled with divine blessings.
Yours most devotedly in the Lord,
Leonardo Card. Sandri
+ Cyril Vasil, S.J.