Franciscans in Holy Land Sow Peace, Fraternity, Respect, Pope says

Franciscans pray during the ceremony for the opening of the celebrations of the anniversary of 800 Years of Franciscan presence in the Holy Land Oct. 16 at the Church of Saint Saviour in Jerusalem’s Old City. (CNS photo/Debbie Hill)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The Franciscans assisting the Christian minority and caring for the churches and shrines in the Holy Land are “ambassadors” of all the people of God, Pope Francis said. Marking the 800th anniversary of the order’s presence at the places where Jesus was born, lived and died, the pope sent a letter to the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, an administratively autonomous province of the Franciscan order. The custody keeps “the Christian witness alive, studying Scripture and welcoming pilgrims,” he said in the letter, dated Oct. 17, and addressed to Franciscan Father Francesco Patton, the official custodian, or custos, of the Holy Land. The pope recalled how Saint Francis of Assisi sent members of his recently founded order out on mission in 1217 to all nations on earth as witnesses of “faith, fraternity and peace.”