Saint Paul and the Collection for Jerusalem
by Chorbishop John D. Faris
It is unlikely that — despite our best efforts — we shall reverse the demographic reality of Christian emigration. This does not mean we shall not continue to try. A return of Christians to the Holy Land in the near future is also unlikely. The right of return (aliyah) for Jews is a matter of Israeli public policy. The Palestinians, with their Muslim majority, want to return. But we Christians are not promoting the “right of return” as a solution to the problem. It is undeniable that a few hundred thousand Christians of different — and at times antagonistic — communities cannot make a difference. One must also take into account that a significant number of these believers are unemployed and live below the poverty line.
On their own, they are politically powerless. Today, the real strength of the Christians in the Holy Land lies beyond the boundaries of that region. People like you are concerned and want to help by sharing your resources and influencing political leaders in this important issue of justice and human rights.
In 1847, Pope Pius IX re-established the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem as a residential bishop, appointed Joseph Valerga to hold the position. His Beatitude Fouad Twal, a Jordanian, is the current Patriarch. The patriarchate, encompassing Israel, Palestine, Jordan and Cyprus, has a total Catholic population of 77,000 in 65 parishes. The communities are served by 79 diocesan priests, 293 religious order priests, 313 religious brothers and 1,144 religious sisters. As one might expect, the Holy Spirit has been working overtime in the area of vocations: there are 22 seminarians. There are also 166 schools and 37 charitable institutions.
Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre
Pius IX also re-vitalized the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem to collaborate in support of the Latin Patriarchate. Pope Pius XII, in 1949, gave a special mission to the Order, a first since the Crusades:
- The preservation and propagation of the faith in Palestine
- Assistance to and development of the mission of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, providing for its charitable, cultural and social undertakings
- Defense of the rights of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land.
These are three big tasks. You came here this evening presuming that you were getting an honor, only to find out that you had been given a job! Today, we are not asked to die for, but to live for the Holy Land. We are being asked not to use arms, but to use every legitimate peaceful means to safeguard the rights and interests of the church in that holy but troubled place.
Today the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre includes 22,000 knights and ladies, organized into 50 lieutenancies and 2 delegations (quasi-lieutenancies). There are 9 lieutenancies in the United States. We can take pride in the fact that our Holy Father has recently appointed Philadelphia-born John Cardinal Foley as Grand Master of the Order.