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HOLYLAND-FOLEY Apr-29-2009 (750 words) xxxi

Holy Sepulcher order helps cover cost of papal trip to Holy Land

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Blessed Pope Pius IX re-established the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem in 1847 to support the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and other Catholics living in the Holy Land.

Pope Benedict XVI's May 8-15 trip to the region will help him see the results of that support and the ongoing needs of the region's Christians, but the visit itself is partially a result of the knights' generosity.

U.S. Cardinal John P. Foley, grand master of the order, said the knights and dames had given about $325,000 to Pope Benedict and the same amount to Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem to help cover the expenses of the visit.

The cardinal and 50 knights will be on hand during the papal trip, forming a sort of honor guard, he said.

To support the trip with prayer and finances is to support the pope in his mission as the successor of Peter, Cardinal Foley said.

"He will do what Peter always does: encourage the faithful, recognize them, give them a renewed sense of worth and let them know how much the universal church appreciates them and the importance of their faith," the cardinal said.

The order has about 24,000 members in 32 countries, the cardinal said. Members propose other Catholics for membership and, with the local bishop's approval, they are invested in the order.

Each member pledges to pray each day for the good of the church, the work of the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem and the holy sites associated with the life of Jesus, and for strength in exercising their obligation of charity, especially toward "the poor and sick in the Holy Land."

As for fundraising, "our goal is to raise about $600 a year from each member," he said, but not meeting the goal is not grounds for dismissal from the order, which was founded "primarily for the spiritual development of the members," the cardinal said.

Their spiritual growth, he said, comes through prayer, study and a commitment to concrete "support of the church in the Holy Land so that it does not become a museum, but remains a living church."

Catholics in the Holy Land, most of whom are Palestinians, "are descendants of the original followers of Jesus Christ and are of different rites and, unfortunately, different churches," although mainly Catholic and Orthodox, Cardinal Foley said.

The cardinal said that since the year 2000 members of the order have given almost $65 million to support the work of the Latin patriarchate, its seminary, parishes and schools, its charitable organizations, and other institutions such as St. Joseph's Hospital in Jerusalem and Bethlehem University, which is run by the Christian Brothers.

Although the bulk of the knights' aid goes through the Latin patriarchate, they also work with the special coordinating agency of the Congregation for Eastern Churches to support worthy projects associated with the Melkite, Maronite, Chaldean and Armenian Catholic churches in Israel, Palestine and Jordan.

About half of the students enrolled in Catholic schools in the region are Christian, Cardinal Foley said.

"All of the Catholic schools provide religious education according to the religion of the student -- for example, they bring in a Muslim teacher for the Muslim students -- but the ethos of the schools is Catholic," he said.

"The purpose of open admission is to promote a spirit of respect, tolerance and peace," he said.

"Anything that can be done to bring about peace is important," he said. "I would hope the Israelis would be more understanding of moderate Palestinians and that the number of moderate Palestinians would grow."

All schools in Israel, including Catholic schools, receive government funding, he said, but that is not the case in Palestine and Jordan, which is one of the reasons why so many schools in those areas receive funding from the Holy Sepulcher order.

The order also assists with tuition, because "we do not want any Catholic child to be deprived of a Catholic education because their families can't afford it," he said.

For Cardinal Foley, education is the key to helping the region's poor lift themselves out of poverty, to promoting peaceful coexistence and to creating the conditions necessary to convince Christians not to emigrate.

If communities of normal Catholic families no longer live and work in the Holy Land, "we lose our connection to our roots," he said.

"In the land where Our Lord lived, you need the continuation of a living community," Cardinal Foley said.

END


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