Here follows the text signed by the Bishop of Cremona, Mgr. Dante Lafranconi, published on the site of the Diocese of Cremona on the occasion of the Holy Easter 2011. The Diocese of Cremona, active in supporting the Christian Communities in the Holy Land, participated in the campaign to collect Christmas funds “Help Bethlehem”.
More than one year has passed since my pilgrimage to the Holy Land, but in my heart it’s still alive the meeting with the local Church which keeps alive the memory of the Son of God incarnated.
I remember the enthusiasm of Father Ibrahim, priest of Jericho, responsible for a Catholic school, or the resourcefulness of some youth from a peripheral parish of Jerusalem to support those who opened, in the spaces of their community, a restaurant for the pilgrims. My thought also goes to Mgr. Somali, deputy patriarch of Jerusalem, who told us about the efforts of the ecumenical dialogue and the hopes that the Christians from all over the world offer.
But it is especially the words by Father Vitores, deputy of the Custodian of the Holy Land that has re-awakend our desire to do more for this Church, so old and so proud. The religious man described the silent and precise work made by the Franciscan friars: the maintenance of sanctuaries and churches, assistance to pilgrims and, above all, the cure provided for the Christians in these lands. The data that Father Vitores has given us are impressive: in 1948 the Christians of Jerusalem were 20%, today they are 1.4% and, more over, they are divided in 20 different groups; in the Sixties of last century in Bethlehem Jesus’ disciples were 70%, today they are a bit more than 10%. A silent but effective persecution is pushing many families to emigrate to look for other places in the world to find a peaceful future that cannot be found in their homeland. This is not acceptable: the Holy Land, which without Christians would become a museum of the past, must be a living memory of the presence of Christ in the world! That is why we are called upon to take care of the Church in Jerusalem, first of all through our prayers, to finally have peace, harmony and freedom for all, and then through concrete help.
The collection that will take place in all the parishes during the Good Friday celebrations will be directed to the projects of the Custody of the Holy Land: the offers will help renovate religious buildings, financing school grants for about 360 young people, to assist children and families in Bethlehem, to support parishes and their schools, to built apartments for the poor and for young couple and to support, least but not last, important cultural initiatives. By supporting the Christians in these lands, we do not only tend our hand to our brothers in need, ma but we also invite the members of our sister community to remember they are living stones, living memories of the peace message that Christ wrote in his own blood on the wood of his cross.