An official at the Vatican is urging Catholics to show their support for their Middle Eastern brethren on Good Friday.
Cardinal Leonardo Sandri told the Catholic News Service (CNS) that Catholics should provide spiritual support through prayers and material assistance to their brethren suffering from persecution in the Middle East, and support the Good Friday collection.
In this way, the cardinal said, Catholics can "become promoters of dialogue through peace, prayer and sharing of burdens."
Sandri is the prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, an organisation within the Vatican that is responsible for maintaining contact between Rome and churches in the Middle East, parts of Europe and Egypt.
The Congregation is jointly responsible with the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land for administering the funds collected on Good Friday.
Sixty-five per cent of the funds go to the Franciscan Custody, which then invests the money in maintaining or developing shrines associated with the life of Jesus Christ as well as providing services like pastoral care for Catholics, maintaing schools and charitable organisations and training future priests in the Franciscan Order.
The Congregation receives 35 per cent of the collection, which is then used for projects in the Holy Land, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Turkey, Iran and Iraq.
Sandri's office monitors both portions of the collection.
According to CNS, the Vatican said that in 2014 it released about $2.5 million raised through the collection to provide for the emergency needs of the Christians displaced by the fighting in Iraq. Another $2.4 million went to supporting education for Catholics, and $2.4 million was allocated for small-scale projects.
The Vatican also revealed that the Franciscan Custody used its allocated funds for 2014 to support restoration and maintainance in various projects in the Holy Land, including the Basilica at the Garden of Gethsemane, and archaeological projects in Jordan.