The Franciscan friars taking care of the Holy Land sites have asked Catholics for prayers and financial support as they continue to feel the loss of pilgrimages during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In the past year, even in the Holy Land we have been severely tested by the pandemic that has paralyzed the whole world,” Br. Francesco Patton, Custos of the Holy Land, said in a video message.
“Despite this situation, we have continued to take care of the Holy Places of our redemption and the small Christian community that still exists and endures here,” he said. “At the Holy Sepulchre, in Gethsemane, in Bethlehem, in Nazareth and in the other shrines we have intensified our prayers for the whole world.”
Money taken up in the 2021 Good Friday collection 2 April will go toward supporting the Holy Land’s Christian community, schools, refugees, and other charitable activities, Patton said.
The Custody of the Holy Land has 300 friars located in Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and on the islands of Cyprus and Rhodes.
The Holy See has overseen the annual Holy Land collection since 1974, when St. Paul VI established Good Friday as the ordinary day for it to be taken up by parishes and bishops around the world.
The collection goes toward maintenance and upkeep of the holy sites as well as supporting the lives of Christians in the Holy Land.
In 2020, the collection was moved to 13 September due to the fact that parishes in many countries were not able to hold public Good Friday liturgies because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“This year, more than ever, we need the generosity of Christians around the world, the generosity of each and every one of you. Please help us again this year, according to your possibilities, according to the generosity of your heart, so that we can continue to help those in need,” Br. Patton urged.
The Holy Land shrines have reopened after many had to close last year because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Reduced numbers of Christians will be able to participate in Mass and processions at the holy sites during Holy Week and the Easter Triduum this year.
The Custody of the Holy Land has published a full program with information about where to watch livestreams of their liturgies from the Basilica of the Agony at Gethsemane and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
On Palm Sunday, Latin Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa offered Mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The Passion Sunday Mass was preceded by a solemn procession in the footsteps of Christ, from the Church of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem.
“The Holy Week is also called the week of the Passion, so it is a week in which we join in prayer with all the people who cannot take part because they are suffering because of Coronavirus or other forms of suffering,” Pizzaballa said at the end of Mass 28 March.
“However, we have to remember that on Palm Sunday, we acclaim Jesus as Christ, as our King, as the son of David. We say Hosanna,” he added. “We must not forget that beyond the suffering and the pain, there is also a presence of comfort and consolation.”
After blessing the city, in front of the entrance to the Old City, Pizzaballa said: “For us as believers, the cross is a sign of victory, of love, of redemption, and forgiveness. This is what each of us needs and what our city, Jerusalem, needs.”
“Our Church has a mission: to pray for the peace of Jerusalem,” he continued. “Every believer can find his home here because Jerusalem is the house of prayer for everyone, as the Bible says.”