Holy Land Franciscan Pilgrimages in Office of the Custody of the Holy Land
We are the Franciscans of the Holy Land. The official title of our province is The Custody of the Holy Land. The term “custody” refers to our task of caring for the sacred shrines of the Holy Land. Many centuries ago Pope Clement VI recognized the role of the Franciscans as caretakers of the shrines in his papal bull Gratias agimus, promulgated in 1342.
But our origins go back even earlier. At the Franciscan General Chapter of 1217 the decision was taken to establish the “Province of the Holy Land,” sometimes referred to as the “Province of Syria.” St. Francis, who was in attendance at this chapter, no doubt had a significant influence on the decision to found this Holy Land province. It was his great love for this land made sacred by the life and ministry of our Divine Savior which ensured the more than 700 year presence of the Franciscans in that same land.
We continue to fulfill our mandate to care for the sacred shrines today. The following is a partial list of the shrines for which the Franciscans serve as caretakers: Nazareth (the Basilica of the Annunciation); Bethlehem (the Basilica of the Nativity); Capernaum (Jesus’ hometown); Cana (the Church of the First Miracle); Mt Tabor (the Basilica of the Transfiguration); Bethany (the Church of St. Lazarus); Gethsemane (the Basilica of the Agony); and the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher.
In addition to caring for the shrines we also offer other kinds of assistance for pilgrims, such as providing accommodations in our pilgrim guest houses (Casa Novas, serving as spiritual assistants (guides) for pilgrim groups, offering the Sacrament of Reconciliation to pilgrims in a select number of our shrines, and so on. We also serve the needs of the local church by staffing numerous parishes and by offering various forms of social assistance for those in need.