Holy Land Collection Postponed to September 13, 2020

The Prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches explains the reasons for the change desired by the Pope: the new date of September 13 will be a sign of solidarity with the Christian communities of the Middle East and with their charitable works and care which, with the worsening pandemic situation and without the help of the Good Friday collection, would reduce them to a situation of severe suffering.

- Alessandro De Carolis - Vatican City


In a world largely paralyzed by coronavirus, some regions are suffering more severely than others from blockages imposed by these circumstances. This, among other things, is the situation for “Christian communities in the Holy Land, also at risk of contagion, who live in very trying times.”

A statement from the Congregation for Oriental Churches says that these communities “benefit each year from the generous solidarity of faithful throughout the world; and thus they are able to continue their evangelical presence and maintain schools for the education of all citizens and social aid structures for their peaceful coexistence, by paying attention particularly to the smallest and poorest.” 

Traditionally, as Easter approaches, the Universal Church unites itself with these communities through the Good Friday collection; that is, with the offerings that are gathered in churches around the world and then sent to the Holy Land. Since the “preventive measures” established to contain the pandemic “prevent the usual community celebrations of Holy Week, ”the statement emphasized that Pope Francis “approved the proposal that the Holy Land collection, for the year 2020, be moved to Sunday, September 13, the day before the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, which commemorates the discovery of the relic of the Holy Cross by St. Helena.” Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect for the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, reflects on this decision:

Eminence, what are the changes induced by this decision?

I would like to respond with the phrase, taken from Pascal's Pensées, that we chose to illustrate the Good Friday collection for 2020:  “Jesus will be in agony until the end of the world, we must not sleep during this time.” In this moment when the whole world is suffering, this picture of victims, of suffering, of deaths due to the pandemic is the continuation of the Jesus’ agony in our Eastern countries as well as in those of the West. And we invite you with this letter to unite with the Passion of Jesus, following in his footsteps through suffering, the Cross, and the Resurrection. Unfortunately, it will not be possible to do so with the enthusiasm and freedom we were used to before this terrible tribulation. And thus our anguish is shared with all those who suffer especially in the Middle East and I am talking about Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, all the countries that the Congregation deals with and which are also suffering from this pandemic. This means a worsening as regards the requirements and necessities of these countries and the Christian communities which the Congregation is helping.

What types of structures operating in the Holy Land receive assistance from the collection?

Schools and hospitals mainly. I think of the hospitals in Syria that have been reopened after so much violence and which are accessible to all, Christians and Muslims. Or think of the schools for children who cannot pay education costs because their families, in exile or refugees, are poor. I therefore believe that the Holy Father was sensitive to our proposal to ensure that the Holy Land collection not take place this Good Friday since, in many places, it will be impossible to do so. Think also of the people who are laid off, or whose jobs have been terminated: how can we now ask their solidarity with the Holy Land?

Why was the date of September 13 chosen?

The Pope decided on transferring this collection to the Sunday before the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.  On that day, the pastors of the Church, the Bishops Conferences, and individual bishops will organize this collection in a different way.  They will not forget the suffering of their brothers and sisters in the all the Eastern Churches and Middle Eastern countries, who feel more acutely this pandemic that affects the whole world.

This is easy to understand, but how can we fully explain the link between Good Friday and the day of the Exaltation of the Cross?

When he instituted this collection for the Holy Land, Paul VI thought of the climax of Jesus' earthly life, his crucifixion, to make Christians reflect on one point: “But what are we looking for? We look for Jesus by returning to the Word of God, to penance, to the atonement for sins.” Thus, this feast, which commemorates the discovery of the Cross of Christ, permits us, in a certain sense, “to reflect” all the more on Christ’s sufferings and redemption of the world. The Pope wanted to unite this Good Friday collection with Sunday September 13 – even if it would have been possible to do the collection on another Sunday – so that people would become aware of the needs and show solidarity with their brothers and sisters in the Eastern world, so that all the supportive initiatives carried out by the Custody of the Holy Land and our Congregation would not be lost.

One could therefore say that, in the message of the Resurrection which is inherent in the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, there is also a message of hope for the world currently afflicted by the pandemic ...

Of course. During the Good Friday celebrations, we sing “Ave spes nostra,” the cross of Christ is our hope, our only hope. And the hope found in Christ’s cross is reinforced by the Virgin Mary. In this regard, I would like to remind you of the initiative  taken by the Episcopal Conference of Latin America - CELAM - to dedicate the whole continent to Our Lady of Guadalupe at noon on Easter Sunday. It seems to me that this hope, [reinforced by the Virgin], is also felt by all the Middle Eastern countries. I am thinking, for example, of Iraq, as well as Iran: there is still suffering there, even more so with this pandemic. And, for the feast of St. Joseph, the Chaldean Patriarch S.B. Louis Raphael Sako sent a message of solidarity and had the rosary said for Italy and for those suffering in the West. So I think that all our brothers and sisters in the Middle East, Catholic Christians united with all the suffering population - in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Iran - will look at this Easter day - or the following Sunday, which will be the Eastern and Orthodox Easter - and look to the Virgin Mary in the hope that she will help us cope with all this suffering with dignity, respect and always place us in the hands of Jesus Our Savior.


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