Presence of Christians in Holy Land Deemed Vital

Vatican Letter Makes Aid Appeal to Bishops

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 14, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The presence of Christians in the Holy Land is more necessary than ever, especially for peace, says the Vatican in an appeal for aid to the region.



Cardinal Ignace Moussa Daoud, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, explained this in a letter sent to all bishops to promote the traditional Good Friday collection for the Holy Land.

"The presence of Christians in the Holy Land," wrote the retired patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians, "… is also for the good of the whole universal Church, which ought to find in the Holy Land living communities that profess the Gospel faith."

The cardinal sent the message in virtue of popes' explicit mandates to the Vatican congregation "to disseminate and encourage every initiative and intervention to benefit the Holy Places."

After recalling the historic appeals of Pope John Paul II for peace in the Holy Land and for its Christians, the cardinal said that the region continues to be "the scene of a conflict that has lasted for decades and deprives Catholic communities and institutions of the adequate means to maintain and promote religious, humanitarian and cultural activities."

Disturbing

"This distressing situation leads to poverty and unemployment, with serious consequences for families and for the entire population," he continued. "It also increases the disturbing phenomenon of the constant exodus of Christians, especially young couples for whom there is no prospect of a safe and dignified future."

If at the end of the 19th century Christians in the Holy Land represented 25% of the population; today they are less than 2.5%.

The message stated that Benedict XVI has constantly manifested his closeness to the Holy Land and been tireless in appealing for prayers for Jerusalem, "that it may be increasingly a place for the encounter of religions and peoples; that it may truly be a place of peace."

"Thus," the letter concluded, "it is a duty of all Catholics throughout the world to accompany the Christian communities of that blessed Land with prayer and concrete solidarity."