Vatican renews call for protection of Christianity's origins

The Holy See has launched this year’s Easter appeal for the support of Christians in the Holy Land. The call for support is accompanied by an exhortation to reinforce solidarity and preserve the “Christian origins” of the region.

In a letter to priests released by the Holy See’s Press Office on Monday, the prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, presents the motivations for this year’s initiative, inspired by Pope Benedict’s pilgrimage there last May.

Asking for prayers, participation and practical generosity, Cardinal Sandri calls for the collaboration of pastors from the Church around the world. In this universality, he writes, they will find motivation to be sensitive to the needs of the Church in the Middle East, which can be manifested in the form of help, remembrance and collections for this year’s appeal.

Recalling the inspiration provided by Benedict XVI upon his visit to the Holy Land in May of 2009, Cardinal Sandri reminds the clergy of the Church's commitment to the preservation of holy places.

“Let us, therefore, return in our hearts to the Upper Room in Jerusalem where the Teacher and Lord ‘loved us to the end'; to that place where the Apostles with the Holy Mother of the Risen Crucified One experienced the first Pentecost,” the prelate writes in the letter.

He also asks priests to “work tirelessly to guarantee a future to Christians in the place where ‘the kindness and humanity’ of Our God and Father first appeared.”

On Pope Benedict’s behalf, Cardinal Sandri urges the involvement of all “to reinforce the solidarity that has been shown so far.”

Eastern Christians, he underscored, deserve the support of the whole Church in completing their “responsibility to preserve the ‘Christian origins,'" meaning both the people and places, "so that those origins may always be the reference of the Christian mission, the measure of the ecclesial future and its security.”

Along with the letter, the Vatican released a list of the apostolic works promoted and implemented from 2008 – 2009 by the Custody of the Holy Land.

Among the 20 projects set in motion, 10 were continued or completed at pilgrims destinations. Restorations were completed at the Shrines of the Visitation and of St. John of the Desert in Ain Karem, for example. A project for the restoration of the Chapel of the True Cross in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem was carried out and other funds were directed to the continuation of efforts to restore the Grotto of the Annunciation in Nazareth.

Local communities also benefit from the initiatives funded by the yearly appeals. Scholarships for university studies are given to 350 students annually and assistance is provided for a children’s home in Bethlehem, as well as family counselling and medical services.

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