Each year, the Good Friday Holy Land Collection supports Christian people living difficult lives in countries far from our shores, and also provides for the upkeep of sacred places of pilgrimage. This year we are once again invited to give generously to the collection, which will be taken up in our parishes on Good Friday.

For 800 years, the Franciscan friars have been a constant and faithful presence in Israel and Palestine, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Rhodes and Cyprus—the countries that make up the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land. They have offered pastoral care and shared the struggles of local Christian communities, who often face particular challenges because of their minority status.

In recent years, the COVID-19 pandemic has had an enormous impact on the people of the Holy Land, with sometimes catastrophic consequences for both their health and their incomes. The absence of pilgrims has meant there is less work for locals, and also fewer financial resources to support the friars in their mission of caring for the holy places, running parishes and schools, and ministering to orphans, refugees, the homeless and others.

Fr Bernie Thomas OFM, Commissary of the Holy Land (Australia), was heartened by the generous response of the Australian Church to last year’s collection, which raised well in excess of A$200,000 and was a huge improvement on the previous two years.

In a recent statement, he says, ‘On behalf of the residents of the Holy Land, 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. The Eastern Churches share this concern and stand in solidarity with Christians of the Holy Land and those through the Middle East.’

However, as he points out, ‘the financial situation in the Holy Land continues to be extremely challenging’, and the work of the friars there extends well beyond caring for churches and holy places.

‘The presence of Jesus can be felt strongly in the local Christian community, who make up less than 2 per cent of the population,’ he says. ‘For them, survival as a minority amongst 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 impresses upon all of us that there is an absolute and urgent 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. They need the support of their fellow Christians in other parts of the world.

According to Fr Bernie, this is where we, their brothers and sisters in Australia, can help. ‘Please pray for them on this Good Friday and, where possible, assist them by giving generously to the Good Friday Collection,’ he says. ‘Your support of the Good Friday Collection can be a meaningful sign of the spiritual link which unites all Christians to Jerusalem and to the Land of Jesus.’

The annual Good Friday Holy Land Collection will be taken up in Catholic parishes around the world, including in the Archdiocese of Melbourne, on Good Friday, 7 April 2023. Please give generously.

Banner image: © Marie-Armelle Beaulieu/CTS.