Fr Carl Schafer OFM, from the Commissary of the Holy Land, Australia said, “I am particularly grateful to the Catholic people of Australia who give so generously each year to support the missionary work of the Church in the Holy Land. Franciscan Friars have been caring for the churches and shrines of the Holy Land as part of their everyday pastoral ministry for centuries.
“But it is not just the churches and holy places that make up the Holy Land. The presence of Jesus can be felt strongly in the local Christian community who make up less than 2% of the population. For them, survival as a minority in the midst of people of other faiths is not easy, especially because of ongoing political and religious conflict.
“The political and economic crisis of this area shows evidence each day of unspeakable suffering. The situation presses upon all of us that there is an absolute need to support our brothers and sisters in the Holy Land. Despite their countless difficulties, these Christians offer day by day, and in silence, an authentic witness to the Gospel.”
When I visited the Holy Land in 2015, I met Palestinian Christians, who told my family of the persecution they face every day. It was clear that there is a huge tension between those of different faiths.
At each sacred place, such the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, I saw firsthand the amazing work being done to keep those places open, safe, and in great condition.
Coming back to Australia and putting my donation in the Good Friday Collection was a time to remember the privilege it was to be able to travel and walk where Jesus walked. This collection also helps others have that same experience.
In 2018, the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle contributed $16,879.87 to the total $1.4 million raised through the Pontifical Good Friday Collection in Australia. This money goes to help in many areas, specifically:
Faith, Memory & Culture – The Holy Places
Holy Land Franciscans staff and maintain the Holy places and shrines. This enables those who live in the Holy Land and those who visit to deepen their faith and their spiritual and cultural connection to Salvation history.
Social & Charitable Activities
In order to assist Christians to remain in the Holy Land, including the poor and young couples, the Custody builds thousands of residential units. Additionally, they build senior care facilities. Medical assistance is provided for the needy.
Educational & Scientific Activities
The Franciscans operate and support schools open to all, regardless of religion or nationality. They provide scholarships for students to prepare them to get jobs and remain in the Holy Land as part of living Catholic communities. Funds are distributed to young men studying to become Franciscan priests or brothers. Finally, Franciscan archaeologists pursue ongoing research at the Holy Places discovering historical artefacts.
The Franciscans provide pastoral care in 29 parishes in the Holy Land offering Worship, Christian Formation, youth and family programs.
Liturgical, Ecumenical and Communications Programs
The Franciscan Media Center tells the story of the Holy Land through multimedia distributed throughout the world in more than seven languages. The friars organize Liturgical Celebrations for the local Christians and Pilgrims and share with other Christian communities in the Holy Land in ongoing Ecumenical cooperation.
Read a letter from Friar Carl Scahfer OFM thanking the people of Australia for their generosity, and remember the Christians in the Holy Land, as we pray in peace this Good Friday.