Good Friday collection helps Holy Land Christians

“Pro Terra Sancta”
Why, we might ask, do we take up a collection for the Holy Land during the Good Friday service of Holy Week?
This collection is upheld each year by the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, who sends out a pastoral letter to each diocese over the entire world, describing the needs of the church in the Holy Land. The collection is allocated in portions to the Franciscans for their pastoral and social work and to other institutions that work in the Holy Land.
The Franciscans first established a presence in the Holy Land in 1217. Over the next century, they were allowed by the Sultans to occupy sites in Jerusalem, including the Cenacle, or Upper Room, on Mount Zion and later, the site of the Holy Sepulchre and the site of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
In 1974, Pope Paul VI, in his Apostolic Exhortation “Nobis in animo” (The Needs of the Churches in the Holy Land), elevated the work of the Franciscans. He wrote the following:
1. That in all churches a collection shall take place on Good Friday or on any other day, that shall serve the purpose of “maintaining not only the Holy places above all, but also all pastoral, welfare, educational and social works that the Church carries out in the Holy Land to the benefit of the Christian brothers and the local population;”
2. “the collection shall be delivered to the nearest Commissary of the Holy Land, whose activity, so worthy in the past, is still valid and functional, or it shall be delivered by any other appropriate means;”
3. The Congregation for the Oriental Churches shall grant that “the Custody of the Holy Land and the local hierarchy, with respect to its competences, may continue their work, consolidate it and develop it further.”
The Franciscans’ mission was and still is to acquire and maintain the sites associated with Jesus’ ministry and to make significant investment into the Christian people’s life in the Holy Land. Their ‘custody’ has resulted in orphanages, schools, universities, seminaries, parishes, healthcare institutions, all open to those of all faiths. The organization also builds new homes for Christian families and aid in housing rehabilitation. The procurement and maintenance of the 79 holy sites are part of the mission. There are many international groups of religious who come to care for the holy sites. These missionaries are given the title of ‘Procurators or Commissaries of the Holy Land”. The present Custos of the Holy Land is Father Pierbattista Pizzabella, OFM.

Knights and Ladies of the
Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre
This order was founded by Sir Geoffrey de Bouillon, of the first Crusade, whose knights liberated Jerusalem. The Order is the only lay institution of the Vatican State charged with the task of providing for the needs of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and of all the activities and initiatives to support the Christian presence in the Holy Land. The contributions made by the members of this Order are the main source of funding for the Latin Patriarchate.

Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land
This non-profit organization, based in New York City, is headed by Father Peter Vasko, OFM.  Father Vasko travels to the U.S. twice a year. The main object of the mission is to fund scholarships for the higher education of Christian youth. An education at Bethlehem University, for instance, costs about $6,000 a year. So the price of four years of school in Israel is about the cost of one year at a state university in the U.S. In order to stem the emigration of young adults from Israel, it is crucial to give them a quality education. In the job market, the Jewish citizen in the State of Israel will be chosen over the young Christian adult (or Muslim). Therefore, a good education and skills are imperative. See for more information.
(Sara Weisenberger, a member of the EHOS, edited and contributed to this story using materials made available from the Franciscans who work in the Holy Land.)