Throughout the almost eight centuries of the Franciscan presence in the Holy Land, the Popes not only renewed their trust in the friars, reconfirming their position as the legitimate custodians of the Holy Places, which had been conferred on them in 1342 by the Holy See, but they also supported them in every aspect of their lives, whether religious, economic, social or political.
It is sufficient to remember that they were allowed to exercise the medical profession at Mount Zion to help the ill and needy, as well as the possibility of having personnel always available to look after all the ill who constantly filled the hospital. In particular, this support for the Franciscans and their mission appears in about a hundred Papal Bulls which refer to the Holy Land, with as many Briefs, decrees and papers of Propaganda Fide.
This aid is a way of thanking the Franciscans for their work which is not always easy. Pope Callistus III said this, as early as the 15th century, to the sons of St. Francis. After having acknowledged “the ardour of your devotion,” and the enthusiasm in their defence of the Holy Places, in the Bula Devotionis vestrae of 4th February 1458, the pope stated: “it is worth granting you with pleasure everything that concerns the salvation of your souls and those of the Christians who live alongside you, for the assistance and need of so many people, to keep your homes, in the name of God and the glory of the Christian name.”
Fr. Artemio Vítores, ofm
Vicar of the Custody of the Holy Land