Good Friday Collection 2013 | Custodia Terrae Sanctae

Good Friday Collection 2013

Interview with Fra Ibrahim Faltas OFM, Custodial Bursar

Can you explain to our readers why the Good Friday Collection is important?

Following the thought of his predecessors, in 1974 Paul VI emphasized the work and history of the Franciscans in the Holy Land, particularly the social, cultural and charitable roles that our friars have been playing for centuries.

Paul VI exhorted the entire Church to a greater cooperation with and attention to the Good Friday Collection, which to this day allows us not only to maintain the holy places, but to be able to sustain all kinds of pastoral, educational and social programs for local Christians, to assist pilgrims, and to intensify our apostolates.

The Custody of the Holy Land receives 65% of the Collection, while the remaining 35% goes to the Congregation for the Oriental Church, that is, to other institutions in the Holy Land and the Middle East.

For us it is an important economic support, indispensable for the guardianship of the holy places and the Christian community of the Holy Land.

We Franciscan friars support Christian families who live not only in a precarious economic situation, but also endure social difficulties and health problems because of the complex political situation. We have worked for centuries to maintain the Christian presence in the holy places, bringing the liturgy to life in places of worship. Our priority is to help Christians remain in the Holy Land, even though such a small minority; they are the living stones of the Church.

Is there a “ranking” of donors to this collection? Which countries give the most? to year?

There is no “ranking”. All contributions help the Christians of the Holy Land. This is truly a collection that involves the whole Church, rich and poor. Rich countries and poor countries, all cultures and all ages contribute to the life of the holy places and the Christians of the Holy Land. This is its most beautiful aspect, and perhaps we do not give it enough consideration. It is inevitable that with the worldwide economic changes that have hit many countries very hard in recent years offerings have diminished.

On our part, we are grateful to everyone who, notwithstanding the challenges of daily life that they face, remembers their brethren in the Holy Land.

Which of the Custody’s projects will be funded by the 2013 collection? Can you tell us about a few of them?

We have many projects because the needs of the Christians are many. First among them is the need for a home to live in. Many families have fallen so low that they are unable to pay rent. Therefore, as a primary aspect of our responsibility to help Christians stay here, we embarked on the housing project. We have already begun a long project of renovating houses in the Old City of Jerusalem and we have obtained permission to build another twenty-four apartments in the Christian quarter of Beit Hanina.

In the Galilee we are working on creating a parish center and a school in the little village of Cana, where the church commemorating Jesus’ first miracle at Cana is located. The Cana parish is the only one that does not have a parish center.

At Nain, where Jesus resurrected the widow’s son, we have renovated and reopened the Sanctuary. We are now in the second phase of completing the restoration and in a few weeks we will inaugurate the church and lay the first stone of a convent that will house a women’s religious order.

Pilgrims to the Holy Land see many, many open construction sites because for years the need to restore convents and sanctuaries in order to stop their deterioration has been urgent.

Which of the Custody’s projects were funded by the 2012 collection?

In 2012 we were able to complete a number of projects and cultural activities aimed in the first place toward the young people of the local community. We financed hundreds of university scholarships, distributed among various universities: Bethlehem, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Haifa, Bir Zeit and Amman. In Bethlehem, we began a project of support for small artisanal enterprises, thereby creating employment opportunities.

In Bethlehem, where the enclosure of the city by Wall of Separation has made daily life difficult for so many people, we support the family counseling center and the Franciscan Boys Home, which houses boys from six to twelve years of age.

In Jerusalem we are continuing the Magnificat school of music, where students from different cultures enroll in courses and take part in cultural performances both locally and internationally, presenting an example of dialog and pursuit of peace through a common love of music. We have invested a great deal in the archaeological research of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum because it is important to increase our knowledge of the history of the Holy Land and its sites.

Through the Franciscan Media Center we have been able to provide real-time broadcast of Holy Land news and events at the holy places of Christian worship in order to open a window for the world to see everything that takes place in the Holy Land. We have disseminated the sacred biblical texts in Arabic, translated and published by our press, to more easily bring our faithful to knowledge of Holy Scripture.

In Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Jaffa, and Nazareth, much of our energy has been applied to completing the renovation or reconstruction of many houses for poor young couples who will finally be able to start a family.

We have given particular attention to parochial community projects. In Beit Hanina, near Jerusalem, and in Nazareth we are building new sports facilities in their respective parish centers for the children and young people who will have a place to meet and gather, but also to play sports. Play has always been a key way for children to grow in interpersonal relationships.

We finished work on the Terra Santa Girls School theater and have renovated the schools in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Jericho and Ramle. Since their arrival in the Holy Land, the Franciscans have always built a school near a church with a view to providing a Christian and human education to Christian youth, in accordance with the laws, directives and intent of the Church. […] Given the needs and circumstances of mission lands, for over two hundred years Franciscan schools in the Holy Land have also accepted non-Christian pupils in order to aid and increase the spiritual and cultural good of all the students. We invest a great deal in education and culture because of the importance of building a good foundation for the cultural and social growth and education of children.

In addition to programs for the community, youth, and families, the past year has seen us occupied with protecting the buildings of all the holy places, both minor daily maintenance and major projects – all dedicated to promoting and developing services for local Christians, pilgrims, and the historical heritage that the holy sites hold for all humanity.

In the Gethsemane basilica we restored the mosaics inside the basilica that use images to recount Jesus’ passion prior to his arrest in the olive grove.

We renovated:
Betfage, the site of Jesus’ departure for his messianic entry into Jerusalem;
the “Cenacolino” monastery on Mount Zion was built for the friars next to the Cenacle, the site that recalls where Jesus instituted the Eucharist and priesthood, where the Church was born and took its first steps, and where free Christian worship is still not allowed;
in Nazareth, in the Basilica of the Annunciation, we are working to save the Grotto from the inevitable deterioration caused by the humidity and the entrance of millions of pilgrims that change the fragile equilibrium of the rock’s structure;
in Capernaum, the town Jesus chose as the hub of his apostolate, we are working on the archaeological site;
on Mount Tabor, where the transfiguration of Jesus took place, we are restoring the basilica and working on a parking lot for pilgrims;
on Mount Nebo in Jordan, in the Sanctuary of the Memorial of Moses, we are completing a large renovation project that was started by Father Michele Piccirillo, that comprises several important mosaics and the remains of the first Byzantine church.

For us Franciscans, it is important to preserve the historical memory in the land of Jesus, assuring continuity of the presence of Franciscans in the Holy Land and to guarantee that neither the holy places nor the living stones disappear. Our strength at such a difficult time is the unity and collaboration of all so that we can serenely continue our Franciscan mission in the Holy Land and in the world.