The Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land has been reactive to the difficulties caused by the Covid-19 pandemic in the Holy Land, providing food aid. It is Fr. Peter Vasko, a Franciscan friar and President of the American Foundation which supports part of the social projects of the Custody who says this. “We have donated $10,000 to the parish of Bethlehem and $10,000 to the parish of Jerusalem for food supplies,” the priest explains. “We started by getting in contact with Fr Rami Asakrieh, the parish priest of St Catherine’s in Bethlehem. We wanted to donate this money so that parcels of food staples could be given to the elderly, those who could not leave their homes and those who were in difficulty due to the pandemic. The scouts delivered the parcels door-to-door. Then two weeks later, the parish of Jerusalem started the same programme.”
Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, many people have lost their jobs, both in Jerusalem and in Bethlehem and all those who depend on tourism suddenly found themselves without customers, as travel is impossible. “People are spending all their savings. We will reach a point where they are starving,” said the parish priest of Bethlehem, Fr. Rami. “We have helped many people since the start of the pandemic thanks to the Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land and we still need support today.”
“We have helped many families in difficulty, thanks also to the contribution of the Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land, and we will continue to do so with the help of the NGO Pro Terra Sancta as well,” said Fr. Amjad Sabbara, parish priest of St Saviour’s Church in Jerusalem.
In these times of pandemic, the contribution of parish priests scattered through the area, has been fundamental throughout the Holy Land. They remained at the side of the faithful, supporting them both materially and spiritually.
The Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land wanted to give the special sum of $20,000 which is added to the funds assigned each year for all the ongoing initiatives. “Each year we donate between $1.5 and 1.8 million to the Custody for projects on education, social needs and medicine,” the President Fr. Peter Vasko disclosed. “Many donors ask to donate money for specific projects.” One of the programmes on which the Foundation concentrates the most is the one for scholarships for young Christians from the Holy Land. “From the beginning of the programme we have donated $6 million for scholarships and 500 students are involved,” Fr. Peter Vasko continued. “90% of them today are professionals. We do it for the future of the Christian community and for the training of the future leaders.” This year thirty applications were received and they will be evaluated by a special board which will decide the winners according to the criterion of economic marginalization and the school marks they have received.
The Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land is active in many other fields, giving scholarships for the Magnificat school of music, supporting the building and renovation of homes for the Christians of the Holy Land, financing the social services centre in Bethlehem and the Casa del Fanciullo for children with disadvantaged families, and carrying on sports programmes for Palestinian children. “I hope to return to the United States soon, where I go regularly for awareness-raising activities on the situation of the Christians,” concluded Fr. Peter Vasko. “We friars have different talents, but all of us have been called together to help the people of the Holy Land, love others and help others in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”