Parishioners throughout the Archdiocese of Baltimore will have an opportunity to participate in a 120-year-old tradition when the second collection basket comes their way Good Friday (April 6).
As it has for more than a century, the Good Friday collection will help the church persevere in the Holy Land.
The need for support for the Holy Land is just as urgent as it was when Pope Leo XIII established the annual Pontifical Collection in 1887, according to Holy Land Franciscans in Washington, D.C.
Millions are raised worldwide each year to fund Holy Land initiatives, which include maintenance of holy places, as well as pastoral, charitable, educational and social works programs.
The Holy Land contains hundreds of sites in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Tiberius and along the Jordan River.
Though the Baltimore faithful are geographically far from the Holy Land, Bishop Denis J. Madden – Baltimore’s urban vicar who served in the region for the pontifical mission from 1988 to 1997 – said the area is worthy of their support.
“It really is holy because it’s blessed by the life of our Lord on that soil,” Bishop Madden said. “It’s not just like giving to another charity. It’s been blessed from the presence of God. We have that tie and that obligation.”
The region is the land where Jesus was born, taught, died and rose from the dead, making it a precious connection for Christians worldwide that should continue to maintain a Christian population, he said.
Christians in the region continue to suffer from the effects of war and religious hatred, and the Franciscan friars count on the Good Friday collection funds to provide for the welfare of the Christian brethren and the local communities, said Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, O.F.M, custos of the Holy Land. Appointed by the Vatican, the custos is the Franciscan minister provincial in the Middle East who helps sustain a Christian presence in the Holy Land.
“Many of the people there are very poor and are dependent on the church in so many ways,” Bishop Madden said, “for very basic things like health care, education, housing and even water.”
In 2005 the Archdiocese of Baltimore collected $141,280 in its Good Friday Collection, according to the 2006 Annual Report of The Commissariat of the Holy Land.
It was one of 23 (arch)dioceses in the United States to collect six-figure donations for the Holy Land, the annual report said.
The archdiocese collected $144,731 during the 2006 Good Friday Collection.
Bishop Madden – who traveled to the region two to three times each year while working for the Catholic Near East Welfare Association in New York – will be leading a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in October so that Baltimore faithful can experience the cradle of Christianity.
“It’s always been a special place,” he said. “It was also a very sacred place for Pope John Paul II. When he visited those countries, the people from all religious backgrounds demonstrated their love for him.”