ATS pro Terra Sancta | Make a legacy to the Franciscan friars in the Holy Land

The Custody of the Holy Land

The Franciscan Order was founded by St. Francis in 1209. During the General Chapter of 1217,  the Order was divided into Provinces and this led to the creation of the Province of the Holy Land. It includes all the regions of the southeast basin of the Mediterranean, from Egypt to Greece.

In 1219, St. Francis himself wanted to visit the Province of the Holy Land.¬†Well-known documents speak about¬†the “Poor man of Assisi” among the Crusaders, during the Fifth Crusade. After the permission of the papal delegate, he went to Damietta, where he met¬†the¬†Sultan of Egypt, Malik al-Kamel, nephew of Saladin the Great. This¬†encounter is one of the most extraordinary acts of peace in the history of dialogue between Islam and Christianity.

In 1229, three years later the death of St. Francis, thanks to a truce between Muslims and Christians, the Friars Minor could establish in the V Station of the Way of the Cross. The reconquest of Acre by the Muslims in 1291, marked the end of the Latin kingdom in the Holy Land: the Franciscans were expelled  and forced to take refuge in Cyprus where the Provincial headquarter was located, but they never lost their connection with Jerusalem and the Holy Places.

Although the Friars were banned from the Holy Land, Pope John XXII allowed the Franciscan Order to sent two fellow brothers there each year; in this way the Franciscan activity and its apostleship have been present continuously until today. The title of Custodians of the Holy Places came in 1342 with Pope Clement VI, who declared the Franciscans as the official custodians of the Holy Places in the name of the Catholic Church.

The Franciscan calling in the Holy Land includes three principal elements: preserving the Holy Places, celebrating functions by the shrines and welcoming the pilgrims that, coming from all over the world to pray and visit the Holy Land, find the friars hospitality at their arrival.

Besides the Holy Places there are many local Christian communities, that are composed by parishes characterized by different practices and traditions (Catholic and Orthodox): the Franciscan Friars take care about the ones belonging to the latin rite.

The Custody has always been committed not only to caring for the Sanctuaries in the physical sense of the term, but also to preserving the ‚Äúliving stones‚ÄĚ of the Holy Land, that are¬†local Christian communities¬†facing difficult conditions in the Holy Land. The educational and social activities of the Custody supporting the Christian presence in the Holy Land are many: schools, building and preserving dwellings for Christians,¬†helping the poorest families.

The Franciscan Friars offer, not only a spiritual guide and welcome to the Christian pilgrims coming from all over the world, but also the guarantee and the grace to pray by the Holy Places where our redemption occured.

 

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