VATICAN CITY, MAR 6, 2007 (VIS) - As is customary at the beginning of Lent, Cardinal Ignace Moussa I Daoud, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, has sent a letter "to all of the pastors of the Universal Church" requesting "assistance for the needs of a portion of the Church which is both forever old and forever young, ... Catholic Christians living in the Holy Land."
In his letter, published in English, Spanish, French and Italian, the cardinal recalls how the first collection for the Holy Land dates back "to the pontificate of Martin V. In 1421 he promulgated norms to regulate the gathering of offerings. ... This collection has since been marked by pontifical approval; was confirmed by various succeeding pontiffs, and was applied directly and with utmost solicitude for the aid of the Christian community in the Land of the Lord.
"The Congregation for Oriental Churches," he continues, "shares in this concern, and always stands in solidarity with Christians in the Holy Land and those throughout the Middle East. We are aware, too, that the political and economic crisis of this area has not yet been resolved and shows evidence each day of unspeakable suffering. This situation impresses upon all of us that there is an absolute and urgent need to support our brothers and sisters in this land, and to do so in every possible manner. In particular, we continually invoke upon them that peace which comes only from the Most High."
Benedict XVI, writes Cardinal Daoud, "recalled this obligation during his visit to Turkey" when he said "we ask peace for Jerusalem and for the entire world." The prefect also emphasizes the grave responsibility of "the universal Church with regards to the Mother Church of Jerusalem.
"Therefore," he continues, "all Catholics of the world must offer their prayers and expressions of solidarity, including economic solidarity, to the Christian community of that blessed Land. Despite their countless difficulties, these Christians offer day by day, and in silence, an authentic witness to the Gospel."
The cardinal concludes his letter by saying: "It is appropriate also to acknowledge the Latin Patriarch, the Custody, ... the Oriental Catholic Churches and all of the institutes and organizations operative in this territory. To each I express profound gratitude. It is a gratitude filled with confidence that the particular Churches of the world will continue to respond favorably to this vital cause of the Holy Land.
"The heartfelt appreciation of the Holy Father is also extended. He assures his prayers and blessing for all of the Churches and upon all of the benefactors of the Land of the Lord."
CEO/HOLY LAND COLLECTION/DAOUD VIS 070306 (450)