Pope Francis sent a message of thanks to the generations of Franciscan servants.
The Franciscan Commissaries of the Holy Land are celebrating their 600th anniversary in 2021. For six centuries members of the Order of Friars Minor have been custodians Christian sites in the Holy Land. They have protected and maintained these important historical sites as well as Catholic missions of the region.
To commemorate the occasion Pope Francis sent a message of thanks to the order. The pope offered his continued support of their “precious service” and extended his blessing to their work. Vatican News reports Pope Francis wrote:
“the mission of the Commissaries is still relevant: to support, promote and enhance the mission of the Custody of the Holy Land by making a network of ecclesial, spiritual and charitable relationships that have as their focal point the land where Jesus lived.” Pope Francis added, “I bless all from my heart — and please do not forget to pray for me.”
600 years of service
The Commissaries of the Holy Land were established in 1421, by Pope Martin V. According to Vatican News, commissariats were installed in order to “support the missions in the birth place of Jesus and to procure economic aid for the Holy Land.”
At their inception during the 15th century, the region was in dire need of support and positions were awarded to members of the laity who could secure funds. Over several centuries, these posts were transitioned to the Franciscans.
Historically, the primary function of the Commissaries has been to raise funds. It takes considerable capital to maintain and secure archaeological sites, and so they ask the faithful to get involved. To this end, they conduct an annual Collection for the Holy Land, which supports the majority of their endeavors. In recent years, the Commissaries have expanded their roles to include organizing pilgrimage groups to the Holy Land and encouraging vocations.
Remembered at Mass
In celebration of their 600th anniversary, Custos of the Holy Land Brother Francesco Patton held a special Mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The service was a solemn celebration of the Eucharist, which remembered 600 years of benefactors. Brother Patton read Pope Francis’ letter and led the congregation to pray for the pontiff. He commented:
“it is precisely from the Paschal Mystery that this proclamation and ministry draws its origin and fruitfulness.”
Watch the beautifully directed video of the Mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the video above.