The link between the Franciscans and the Holy Land has ancient origins. St. Francis probably landed at St. John of Acre on his way to Damietta and it was this that laid the foundation for the Franciscan presence in the Holy Land, which has grown and developed up to this day. In the General Chapter of the Order, held in 1217 at the Porziuncola in Assisi, the Middle-Eastern Province of Friars Minor was established.
Then in 1342, Pope Clement VI issued Bulls which gave instructions for the new entity, defining the identity of the Franciscan mission in the Holy Land in two separate but interconnected areas: firstly, to take care of the places that witness to the events of Redemption, the Holy Places; and secondly to support the Christian presence in the Holy Land and in the Middle East.
The custody of the Holy Land is presently active in Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, and on the Islands of Cyprus and Rhodes. About 300 religious are working in the Custody, called from every part of the world.