Cardinal encourages support for Christians in the Middle East

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ROME – Catholics must unite to help those who, through war and persecution, are experiencing Christ’s suffering on the cross in their own lives, said the prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches.

“If Christ personally suffered only once and died and can die no more, in his body, which is the Church, he continues to suffer, especially in the Middle East, but also in every other place in the world where the freedom, the Living faith is trampled on and prevented,” said Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the congregation, in a letter published March 24.

In the letter, which was sent to bishops around the world, Sandri asked for continued support for the traditional Good Friday gathering for the Holy Land.

The passion and death of Christ can be seen today “in many cases in the persecution, in the sometimes hostile environment, often in the globalization of indifference, in the violence of wars with which, unfortunately, humanity never seems to be satisfied, as it was in happening to Ukraine,” said the cardinal.

The Good Friday collection, conducted at the Pope’s request, is administered by the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land – an administratively autonomous province of the Franciscan Order – and the Congregation for Eastern Churches. The community monitors how all funds are used and how they support projects in the Holy Land, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Turkey, Iran and Iraq.

The Franciscan Custody is responsible for most of the shrines associated with the life of Jesus, as well as the pastoral care of the region’s Catholics, the running of schools, the running of charities and the formation of future priests and religious.

In his letter, Sandri said Pope Francis’ visit to Iraq, Cyprus and Greece drew attention to those who continue to suffer the consequences of the war.

The visits, he said, also invite other Christians to ask themselves, “What am I seeing, what am I noticing? What is the scope of my gaze?”

In addition, he said, the COVID-19 pandemic has further isolated Christians in the Holy Land, who have lived “without the warmth and solidarity of pilgrims visiting the holy sites and local communities.”

“Families have suffered beyond measure, more from the lack of work than the immediate impact of the pandemic itself,” he wrote.

Sandri said an offering to the Good Friday Collection — large or small — “allows our brothers and sisters to go on living, hoping, and bearing a living witness of the Word made flesh in places and on the streets that have seen His presence.”

“If we lose our roots, how can we be a tree all over the world that grows and bears fruit of love, charity and sharing?” he asked.

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