Custody of the Holy Land Status Report 2014

Jerusalem - Source: National Geographic

For many centuries the Custody of the Holy Land has been committed to conserve and give new life to the Holy Places of Christianity in the land of Jesus and in the other countries of the Middle East. Among the various objectives of the Franciscan mission, is worthy of mention the support and the progress of the Christian minority that lives in these regions, the conservation and cherishing of the archaeological sites and shrines, the interventions in cases of emergencies, the liturgies in the places of worship, the educational and job training activities through a network of elementary and secondary schools, and the assistance to pilgrims. As in the past, in 2014, the Franciscan presence in the Holy land was manifest in the planning, programming and execution of the following projects and works:

I. Holy Places

1. Jerusalem

  • Gethsemane: Garden of Olives
    Completion of the restoration, maintenance and waterproofing of the roof of the Basilica of Gethsemane, restoration of the mosaics and the floor of the basilica.
  • Holy Sepulchre
    We are continuing scheduled and non-scheduled maintenance work.
  • Friary of the Holy Cenacle: Jesus, together with the Apostles, ate the last supper of his life on earth.
    We were able to complete the new garden with spaces for the celebrations and welcoming of pilgrims, in an area of some 650 square metres.

2. Nazareth: The Archangel announced to Mary the birth of Jesus.

  • Installation of television cameras for the live and recorded broadcast of the Celebrations. Installation of a new lighting system in the basilica.
  • Planning phase of the new waterproofing project of the grotto that has been damaged by infiltration of water and humidity.

3. Magdala: City of the origins of Mary Magdalen.

  • Continuation of the works of conservation of the archaeological site of Magdala, where important ruins of the Roman port of the city have been discovered. We are preparing an itinerary for visits allowing pilgrims to acquire greater knowledge regarding the daily life of the town during the times of Jesus.

4. Capernahum: Jesus lived after he left Nazareth and here he began his preaching and accomplished numerous miracles.

  • Conservation initiatives of the archaeological site are proceeding smoothly (Phase I) with works in the open space in front of the Church. The area is to be devoted to prayer and meditation.
  • The mosaics of the Byzantine church on the house of Peter are in the process of being restored.

5. Mount Thabor: Identified as the “high mountain” where the transfiguration of Jesus took place.

  • We are developing a new parking lot close to the main gate, 1,250 square metres. - Phase I.

6. Sephoris: Place recognised by tradition as the house where Mary lived during her adolescence.

  • The maintenance and reconstruction of the external perimeter wall, which had partially collapsed, are completed. A functional wall boarding of the ancient rooms and the installation of a new prefabricated housing unit has been provided to the religious of the Incarnate Word, custodians of the Shrine.

7. Cana: The first miracle of Jesus.

  • First phase of the building of a parochial centre and a school, to meet the needs of the parishioners.

8. Mount Nebo (Jordan): Shrine and Memorial of Moses.

  • Completion of the “New covering for the Memorial of Moses” project. The project consists in the providing the entire Basilica with a new roof and of an exhibition itinerary for the mosaics that were discovered during the excavations. We have furthermore built a new Sacristy and installed new electrical and air-conditioning systems.


II. Projects for the Benefit of Young People

  • Scholarships: The financing of 295 four-year University Scholarships distributed in the various Universities: Bethlehem, Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Haifa, Bir Zeit, Amman and others.
  • Support for Arts and Crafts: Project supporting 10 arts and craft shops with the acquisition of spare parts, production machinery, as well as additional support to ensure continuity in the workplace.
  • Workshops for the Olive Wood and Mother of Pearl Arts and Craft Industry in Bethlehem We have completed the set-up of workshops in support of the olive wood and mother of pearl craft industry. Professional job training has been made available for young Palestinians to keep alive the tradition of local manufacturing.


III. Activities in Support of Families in Bethlehem

  • Parochial Family Consultative Board. The work to support the Parochial Family Consultative Board is moving forward, to support the basic needs of families.
  • Franciscan House for young boys. We are continuing the project aimed at helping twenty boys aged between six and twelve, from poor families or from families experiencing special difficulties. Besides the welcoming and schooling assistance, the progress of the boys is monitored by an educator, a social worker and a psychologist.
  • Medical assistance. We are continuing the project of medical assistance for families confronted with serious financial difficulties, by paying their medical expenses in full or in part.
  • Housing Renovation. Home renovation project for the neediest families. The restoration is contracted to local workers who would otherwise be jobless. Besides helping the families, this activity periodically guarantees hundreds of job opportunities in the community.


IV. Works in Favour of Parochial Community Initiatives


  • Parish Cemetary Completion of the expansion of the cemetery, making use of an area of roughly 700 square meters adjacent to the existing cemetery.
  • Catholic Action Centre: The Catholic Action Centre of Bethlehem has benefitted from a series of renewal initiatives.


  • Parish Centre: Completion of the work to provide recreational areas and facilities to the children of the parish of Nazareth.


V. Housing Access for the Needy and Young Couples


  • Old City: The renovation project of the houses in the Old City is currently underway. 45 homes were renovated in 2013.
  • St. James Housing Project at Beit Hanina This is a project involving 6 building blocks that include 42 apartments on 3 floors. We also have obtained the authorization for the building of 24 new apartments.


  • Jesus the Child and, St. Catherine and St. Francis housing projects. The normally scheduled maintenance and the renovation of the homes in these residential complexes are underway.


VI. Other Cultural Works

  • Each year the Custody of the Holy Land supports financially the Faculty of Biblical Sciences and Archaeology of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum of Jerusalem. It offers some 30 scholarships to students from different dioceses, over the full course of their studies.
  • Franciscan Media Center: A new form of communication through an updated website, with the help of TV networks to broadcast live facts and events linked with the Holy Place of the Christian faith.


VII. Works in Favour of Lebanon and Syria

  • Besides the initiatives that have been carried out or that are in the planning stage in Israel and in the Palestinian Territories, Christians in Lebanon and Syria are provided special attention due to the extreme nature of their plight.

Commissariat de Terre Sainte au Canada
96, avenue Empress
Ottawa (Ontario) K1R 7G3

Les bureaux du Commissariat sont ouverts :
les mardis mercredis et jeudis de 8 heures à 16 heures; et les vendredis de 8 heures à midi.

TÉLÉPHONE: 1-613-737-6972