Cardinal Sandri´s Letter to the Bishops   2008/02/15

Your Excellency,

During his visit to this Dicastery to commemorate the 90th Anniversary of its founding, Pope Benedict XVI issued an appeal for peace in the Holy Land and in the Middle East. The date was June 9, 2007, on which occasion the Holy Father announced my nomination as Prefect for the Congregation for Eastern Churches.
Two other Pontifical declarations followed later during the same month, both expressing concern for the situation in this region and for the welfare of its inhabitants.

In the name of the Holy Father, I wish to take this opportunity to address myself for the first time to my brothers in the episcopate who serve your respective Churches. I also desire to emphasize, as has the Pontiff, the invitation to you to continue to sustain spiritually and materially those Catholics living in the Holy Land. Pope Benedict’s are words which constitute a persuasive and authoritative call to solidarity.

With the inauguration of my mandate, I became aware of the nature of this responsibility and therefore desired, in the presence of my associates from the Dicastery and of a group of Ambassadors, to light a lamp before the icon of the Mother of God so as to express an invitation to constant prayer for the cause of peace.

The absence of peace exacerbates the many long-standing problems as well as the poverty afflicting the region of the Holy Places. That absence also contributes to the creation of new difficulties. Thus, we must recognize that Christians who reside there are a priority for the attention of the entire Catholic Church, together with that of all other Churches and ecclesial communities. For even in their need, they embody the "living charism of Christianity’s origins."

The Good Friday Collection has a special relevance. Successive Pontiffs have indicated the appropriateness of this day to attest to our common heritage of that land which, in the course of history, abides as a "silent witness to the Savior’s life upon earth," to cite an expression preferred by Pope Benedict.

It is my fervent plea that every local Church shall participate in the effort to further our commitment to charity. The Congregation for Eastern Churches, by virtue of Papal directive, coordinates this initiative, and does so with exactitude and fairness. Always, the goal is to assist with the everyday requirements of Christian life.

In this way, the Latin community openly supports the Patriarch of Jerusalem, the Franciscans who are Custodians of the Holy Land, and all those belonging to the Eastern Catholic Churches. The desire of the Holy See is that the charitable outreach by all Catholics will not simply be viewed as occasional, but as so continuous and profound that the future may be welcomed with hope. Nor is this program of charitable distribution based upon religious, cultural or political distinctions. Rather, it seeks especially to equip the younger generations to take their place in society in a manner which renders them competent and able to transmit the worth of their Catholic education and formation.

We cannot overlook, however, those numerous other challenges which are serious and urgent. For example, there is the ever present matter of immigration, bringing with it the risk that Christian communities can be deprived of their most important human resources. We must seek to safeguard Christianity’s historic legacy by striving to preserve those ‘living communities’ in which the Mystery of Christ, our Peace, is cherished and celebrated.

May I also take this opportunity to commend the various particular Churches for their many contributions on behalf of the Holy Land. I would mention, for instance, a word of gratitude to those who participate in pilgrimages, and those who volunteer their time and talents. This brings to mind the highly laudable care rendered by parishes and by the families of Religious, and as is evident in their various institutions, Foundations and Associations.

I respectfully encourage that you, my fellow bishops, will authorize once again this "Collection for the Holy Land" owing to the merit of its objectives and its specific characteristics.

Enclosed you will please find a document for your information, prepared jointly by this Dicastery and by the Custody of the Holy Land, and which outlines some of those actions undertaken through our auspices during 2007. I leave it to the disposition of the bishops and to those priests whom they assign in this endeavour to do their utmost to accomplish this work of fraternal charity pertaining expressly to the land of the Lord Jesus.

In conclusion, be assured of the deepest gratitude of the Holy Father for your support of this cause which is of such vital importance for the Church and for humanity. I extend thanks also on behalf of this Dicastery and of all the Latin and Eastern communities of the Holy Land.
With most cordial and fraternal regards, I remain,


Leonardo Card. Sandri


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