Cardinal asks Catholics to help pandemic-hit families and schools in the Holy Land

20200622 His Eminence Fernando Filoni Grand Masterof theOrder of the Holy Sepulchre Daniel Ibez 6 Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre. | Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

A cardinal has urged Catholics worldwide to support a fund helping families and schools in the Holy Land affected by the coronavirus crisis. 

Cardinal Fernando Filoni told EWTN News June 22 that the pandemic is "creating a lot of preoccupation" in the region. 

The Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre noted that the organization created a COVID-19 humanitarian support fund in May.

The order, which dates back to at least the 14th century, has an estimated 30,000 members in 40 countries. 

Filoni said: "It is an act of generosity, an act of charity to the families which have no other income, and we know that Christian families sometimes are poorer, so answering to them is a question also of sharing with them their concerns and taking on our shoulders also a little bit of their heavy situation."

The cardinal, who was appointed Grand Master in December 2019, explained that the money raised would help not only families, but also students at Church-run schools. 

"We have almost 40 schools, secondary schools and universities too. In these schools, of course, everything was closed, blocked, but you have to pay the teachers and those who are linked to the schools," he said.

According to a May 14 article on the website of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the new fund will enable 38 institutions in the Palestinian territories and Jordan, with more than 1,300 staff and 15,000 students, to keep operating. 

Filoni, a veteran Vatican diplomat who led the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples from 2011 to 2019, said the fund benefited not only Christians, but also other religious groups.

"So, in some way we have also an open vision, not only for the Catholics -- especially for them but not only -- and we are glad to share with them, in this difficult moment, to share with them our generosity," he said.

The cardinal told EWTN News that the coronavirus had prompted the ancient order to increase its use of new technology such as online meetings. 

"In some way we had to try to adapt ourselves to the new technologies, thanking the new technologies too," he said.

Filoni noted that the pandemic had brought pilgrimages to the Holy Land to a halt, with severe consequences for local families and businesses. 

But he expressed hope that the region would avoid a devastating second wave of COVID-19 and that pilgrimages would resume.

"So, we hope that the authorities will be able to stop it and as soon as possible to restart pilgrimages and the people's (interest to go to visit the Holy Land)," he said.

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