Saturday, 13 July 2013

Queen of Palestine

The Franciscans have a long history in the Holy Land, and while there a priest friend, Mark Elvins, OFM Cap., noticed the chronic need of the few remaining Christian families in Palestine, and created a charity to help them: REGINA PALESTINAE, Our Lady Queen of Palestine (Registered Charity Number 1144012).

The charity pays for food and medicine, water, electricity, rent, the cost of surgery and education. It is currently the only charity which goes directly to the homes of the poor, befriending them and giving them the support they need. Many have been lifted from penury and supplied with food and life-saving medicine or surgery. A number of students have been able to finish their education with the support of Regina Palestinae and so
obtain the necessary qualifications in a land where lack of training can be a recipe for destitution. The charity over three years has visited over a hundred poor families and found some living on the borders of starvation who are now supported. Most people have no pension and no social welfare, so the prospect of old age is a real problem. The charity therefore hopes to set up a care home for the elderly where they can count on security and regular support.

The poor families are identified by a small team of local people who know the area intimately. They use the criteria of those who make themselves known by requests for help, those known to them from living in the same area for many years and those made known to them through a third party.

According the the charity, about 340,000 Christians live in the area – less than 2% of the total population. Bethlehem which was 70% Christian in 1948 is today only 15% Christian. The Christian population includes Latin Catholic, Melkite, Maronite, Syrian, Armenian, Chaldean Coptic, Greek and Russian Orthodox congregations as well as Anglicans and Lutherans. Pope Benedict XVI’s visit in 2009 was in part to encourage Christians to stay in the Holy Land. 

The charity's area of ministry is largely restricted to Bethlehem, Beit Jalla and Beit Sahour and the surrounding districts. Political considerations make wider coverage difficult at the present. All denominations in special need are eligible to receive support.

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