There are no pilgrims this year because of the pandemic. Both the holy places and the local Christians need support.
Every year on Good Friday, a global collection is taken up in support of the Holy Land. This year the collection had to be delayed, but it is needed much more than usual.
“Here now, there are no pilgrims or any of the work linked to their reception, which allows many Christians to work with dignity and feed their families,” lamented Franciscan Father Francesco Patton, who is the current custos of the Holy Land, a role the Franciscans have had in caring for the land of Jesus’ birth and death for the last eight centuries.
The date for the collection has been moved to September 13.
Why September 13?
Because it is the Sunday closed to the September 14 feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, which, Father Patton said, “we celebrate here [in Jerusalem] with particular solemnity.”
The Cross still characterizes and accompanies the journey of the small Christian community that lives in the Holy Land and throughout the Middle East. A small community that carries the Cross in the midst of situations of conflict on the one hand and indifference on the other. It is a small community that this year suffers even more because of this pandemic that has hit the whole world … Yet despite this, our small Christian community continues to resist, continues to be evangelical salt, leaven, and light in a context that absolutely needs it.
Father Patton described the September 13 collection as a “small gesture of solidarity that the whole Church is called to make in order to support … the Christian communities that are in the Holy Land and feel the weight and also the glory of the Cross of Jesus on their shoulders.”
The Franciscan explained that the support from across the globe enables them not only to help local families who depend on pilgrims, but also to keep up the holy sites themselves — from the Holy Sepulcher to the Basilica of the Nativity and the lesser known sanctuaries.
As well, there are more than 10,000 students in schools sponsored by the Custody, which also helps Christian migrant workers as well as refugees and other populations affected by the Syrian war.