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Brisbane Franciscan Friar calls for urgent aid as caretakers mark 600 years supporting Holy Land

Sacred way: Christians carry a cross during a procession along Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem’s Old City on Good Friday.

HOLY Land Commissary for Australia and Kedron parish administrator Franciscan Father Mario Debattista said 600 years of the Commissariats of the Holy Land was a significant milestone but warned the caretakers were in dire need of donations.

Fr Debattista said total donations from Australia to the Holy Land from last year were down below one third of what it was in previous years before COVID-19.

He said in the Holy Land “all the shrines are closed” and “obviously there are no tourists coming” either.

“That’s a big part of their income and also with the Good Friday collection being cancelled basically across the whole world… it’s been tough,” he said.

While the Good Friday collection was rescheduled to September, Australia only managed to collect $400,000 whereas in previous years the collection totalled more than $1.3 million.

This is primarily because churches were closed or had limited capacity, and major donors like Melbourne archdiocese were in total lockdown.

Fr Mario Debattista: “These Christians trace their faith right back to Pentecost (Acts 2:10), and they still walk in the footsteps of Jesus, often in a seemingly endless Way of the Cross.”

“This loss has been repeated around the world, often much worse, and as things appear, it will again be the case in many countries in 2021,” Fr Debattista said.

“All this makes this year’s Good Friday Collection extremely important.

“The hope is that as our life in Australia returns to more normal and our churches are open, Australian Catholics will be able to be as generous as they have been in past years.

“Please remember brothers and sisters that the Collection remains a vital contribution and act of solidarity that the whole Church can make to support, through the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, the Christian peoples of the Holy Land.

Jerusalem
Sacred trip: The view of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives.

“These Christians trace their faith right back to Pentecost (Acts 2:10), and they still walk in the footsteps of Jesus, often in a seemingly endless Way of the Cross.”

The Franciscans trace their presence in the Holy Land to 1217, when St Francis of Assisi founded the province there.

The 600-year milestone marked Pope Martin V’s bull “His quae pro ecclesiasticarum”, which became the birth certificate for the Commissariats of the Holy Land who are ambassadors who procure funds from around the world to help with the upkeep and financial security of the custodians.

The idea at the time and continued today was that the Holy Land “holds such a special significance for us Christians” that the responsibility should fall on the universal Church to care for it, Fr Debattista said.

Holy place: The church of the Visitation in Ein Karem.

In a letter to the Custos of the Holy Land, Pope Francis blessed the work of “this precious service” for their 600-year anniversary.

“After all these centuries, the mission of the Commissars is still topical – to support, promote and develop the mission of the Custody of the Holy Land, making possible a network of ecclesiastical, spiritual and charitable relations that have as their focal point the land where Jesus lived,” Pope Francis said.

To find out more or to donate to the Custody of the Holy Land, please visit www.custodia.org

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