Fransiskanerne som voktere av Det hellige Land

VATICAN CITY, MAR 17, 2000 (VIS) - In 1217, during the General Chapter of the Franciscans, the order decided that it would extend its Gospel witness to the four corners of the globe and, to this end, divided the then-known world into provinces. One of these was called the Province of the Holy Land, and included all the regions around the southeast Mediterranean, from Egypt to Greece and beyond.

This was considered to be the most important of all the Franciscan provinces as it included the land where Jesus Christ was born, lived, preached the Good News, died and rose from the dead. In fact, according to the Franciscan order, St. Francis himself visited the Holy Land and this province between 1219 and 1220.

In their 1265 General Chapter, the Franciscans decided to limit the province of the Holy Land to Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. The province was also, at this time, subdivided into small areas called "custodies," which encompassed the monasteries of each region. The Custody of the Holy Land comprised the friaries of Acre, Antioch, Sidon, Tripoli, Tyre, Jerusalem and Jaffa. A few of these disappeared over time.

The early presence of the Franciscans in the Holy Land ended in 1291, when St. John of Acre fell to the Muslims. The Franciscans took refuge in Cyprus, where they began planning a return to Palestine.

Pope John XXII, in a bull dated August 9, 1328, granted the Franciscan provincial minister permission to send two friars to the holy places every year.

In 1333 Robert of Anjou, king of Naples. and his wife, Queen Sancia, negotiated with the sultan of Egypt, through Friar Ruggero Garini, to purchase the Cenacle and functional rights to the Holy Sepulchre. Friar Garini, with financial assistance from the queen, then built a monastery near the Cenacle. The king and queen also secured, from Muslim authorities, the right for Franciscans to legally own certain sanctuaries and to have the right of use in others. These events marked the definitive return of the Franciscans to the Holy Land.

In 1342, Pope Clement VI, in two papal bulls, hailed the work of the king and queen of Naples and set forth instructions on running the ecclesiastical province of the Custody of the Holy Land.

The first statutes of the Franciscans regarding the Holy Land date from 1377 and state that a maximum of 20 friars should serve the Holy Places of the Cenacle, the Holy Sepulchre and Bethlehem.

In 1517 the Custody of the Holy Land was granted complete autonomy and the Holy See conferred on it the status of a province with special privileges and particular rights. Since 1558 the Custody has had its seat in the convent of the Most Holy Savior.

Notwithstanding the difficulties of the 16th through the 19th centuries, the Custody flourished and grew, performing many religious, social and cultural activities. Popes encouraged the faithful to give economic assistance to the Custody. Pope Urban VII, in a bull dated 1623, said that "it was the duty of all Catholic Princes, as well as of the Popes, to protect the Franciscans in the Holy Land."

While the term Custody of the Holy Land refers to the ecclesiastical province, the Custos of the Holy Land is the minister provincial of the friars living in the Middle East. He has jurisdiction over the territories of Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt (partially), Cyprus and Rhodes.

Given the importance of his role, the custos is directly nominated by the Holy See, after consultation with the friars of the custody. The current custos, Father Giovanni Battistelli, was named in June 1998.

Among the tasks of the custos are those of animating his confreres in the Custody, welcoming pilgrims to the Holy Land and offering them spiritual guidance, coordinating and disseminating information on the Holy Land, thus instilling a love for it among Christians, and caring for and supporting the Christian presence there through initiatives in schools and parishes.

The custos also oversees fund-raising for the Custody of the Holy Land. In recent centuries the Franciscans set up "Commissariats of the Holy Land" with the twofold aim of fostering awareness of the friars and their work in the Holy Land, and taking up collections to sustain them in their work.

The custos is regarded as one of the most important Christian religious authorities of the Holy Land. Together with the Greek Orthodox patriarch and the Armenian Orthodox patriarch, he is responsible for the Status Quo, a code which has been in force since 1862 and which regulates life at the Holy Sepulchre and Bethlehem.

Vatican Information Service

av Webmaster publisert 17.03.2000, sist endret 17.03.2000 - 15:17