Letter of the Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches

Leonardo Card. Sandri

February 10, 2016
Ash Wednesday

Your Excellency,

Good Friday is the day when evil seemed to triumph, as the Innocent One suffered death on the Cross. It is a day that never seems to end in the Holy Land, where apparently interminable violence must be endured. Broadening our the gaze to the whole world, it is no less difficult to give wings to hope for a serene future.

The human heart, restless and troubled, seeks light, life and hope; it wants to walk in brotherhood, together with fellow human beings. Desiring to set out anew, it looks beyond its present condition, longing for a reality that is greater and truer: a salvation already won, yet ever to be striven for.

The Good Friday collection rekindles in us this sure hope along with a clearer perception of the evil that surrounds us. It turns our gaze to the Holy Land, to the East whence comes our Redemption. There lie our roots; there lies our heart. We are indebted to those who went out from there, carrying the light of faith to the world. Likewise, we are indebted to those who remained to give witness to that faith, in spite of the conflicts that have always tortured that Land.

Nonetheless, the Christians in the Holy Land care for the places marked by the passage of Jesus Himself, allowing us to touch, as it were, the truth of our faith. This Land challenges our charity, as it always has, yet today with a growing urgency. Indeed, every person who lives and works there deserves our prayers and our concrete assistance, so necessary for the continuation of the work of healing wounds and fostering confidently justice and peace.

In this Jubilee year, we are urged more than ever to demonstrate our mercy and solicitude for our brothers in the Middle East. Refugees, displaced persons, the elderly, children, and the sick are all in need of our help. In this land of the East, people are dying, being kidnapped and even killed. Many live in agony for their loved ones, or suffer when the family is divided on account of forced migration and exodus. They know the darkness and fear of neglect, of loneliness, of misunderstanding. It is a time of trials and challenges, even of martyrdom. All this necessarily augments our obligation to help, to respond to emergencies, to reconstruct and to invent new ways of meeting the whole gamut of needs. Such acts of mercy, all necessary and urgent, allow us each day to experience that “if the Lord does not build the house, in vain do its builders labor”.

We live clinging to the Cross of Good Friday, but sustained by the light of the Resurrection. The Holy Land is a place of dialogue, whose inhabitants never cease dreaming of constructing bridges, and in which the Christian community lives to proclaim the Gospel of Peace. It is a Land of “ecumenism of blood” and at the same time a place of extraordinary normality.

“We cannot remain indifferent: God is not indifferent! God cares about mankind, God does not abandon us” (Pope Francis). This care is expressed by our open hands, contributing generously. It can also be shown by making pilgrimages without fear to the places of our salvation, visiting also the schools and centers of assistance, where one can draw near to the local Christians and listen to their stories.

The Collection for the Holy Land reminds us of an “ancient” duty, which the history of recent years has made more urgent, but no less a source of the joy that comes from helping our brothers.

In conclusion, I assure you of the deepest gratitude of the Holy Father Francis and that of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, which seeks to accompany our brothers and sisters of the East with attentive care. Kindly extend this heartfelt thanks to all the Christian faithful of your particular Church.

With most cordial and fraternal greetings in our Lord, I remain


Leonardo Card. Sandri

Cyril Vasil’, S.J.
Archbishop Secretary



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