During these past centuries, the Popes have not only renewed their trust in the Franciscans, reconfirming them in their role as legitimate custodians of the Holy Places, which had been granted to them by the Holy See in 1342, but they have also supported them in all aspects of their lives, on the religious level, as well as on the economical, social and political one. It is enough to remember the authorizations to practice medicine in the hospital of Mount Zion in favor of sick and needy people (1) , and in the subsequent centuries (2) , the privileges, the indulgences (3) , the defense of their rights, etc. Over one hundred Papal Bulls refer to the Holy Land, as do an equal number of decrees and letters of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith that aids the sons of Saint Francis in their mission in the Holy Land (4).
A fundamental aspect of this constant support has been, and is, “the Collection for the Holy Land”, also known as “Collecta pro Locis Sanctis”. It would be too tedious to review all the interventions of the Sovereign Pontiffs in favor of the Holy Places and the needs of the Christians living in the Land of Jesus (5) . We shall limit ourselves to those of Paul VI, who through his Apostolic Exhortation Nobis In animo (The needs of the Churches in the Holy Land) (6), dated March 25, 1974, gave a decisive boost in favor of the Holy Land. The Pope, in line with his Predecessors, elevated he work of the Franciscans and insisted on the need for more cooperation from the Christian world, since, especially from the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Fransicans had increased their “social, charitable, cultural and benevolent activities” in the Holy Land and the local Christians have no means. Pope Paul VI, after pointing out that in history, the “Minor Brothers directly addressed both the great and the humble to collect alms, and the religious destined for this work received the official title of Procurators or Commissaries of the Holy Land”, remembers that in modern times, the needs have increased and, for this reason, the Popes have been concerned with the Collection “pro Terra Sancta”.
In this context, the Pope renewed the regulations given by his Predecessors and made the following dispositions:
- that in all churches a collection shall take place on Good Friday or on any other day, that shall serve the purpose of “maintaining not only the Holy Places above all, but also all pastoral, welfare, educational and social works that the Church carries out in the Holy Land to the benefit of the Christian brothers and the local population”;
- “the collection shall be delivered to the nearest Commissary of the Holy Land, whose activity, so worthy in the past, we believe – says the Pope – is still valid and functional, or it shall be delivered by any other appropriate means”;
- the Congregation for the Oriental Churches shall grant that “the Custody of the Holy Land and the local hierarchy, with respect to its competences, may continue their work, consolidate it and develop it further”.
In past decades, the Congregation for the Oriental Churches has especially been interested, on behalf of the Holy See, in demonstrating the needs of the Holy Land and the regulations issued by Paul VI, including those referring to the Commissaries (7) . In the past few years, 80% of the collections received by the Franciscans have been destined to pastoral and social work and only 20% to the Shrines. It is important to remember that the Custody receives only 65% of the Collections, while the other 35% is des ignated for other institutions that work in the Holy Land. The activities of the Latin Patriarchate, per mandate of the Holy See, are sustained by the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher and by other institutions.
(1) Cf. Urbano VI, Ad ea quae piorum (June 11, 1384).
(2) Cf. Clemente X, Cum sicut (July 7, 1670).
(3) Cf. Calixto III, Et si ex debito (January 10, 1455).
(4) Cf. P. Verniero, Chronicles. Supplement, Book IV, Chapters 52-53, in G. Golubovich, Library… IX, 148-160, mentions some of them.
(5) Cf. Among others, Martín V, Bula His quae pro ecclesiasticarum ( February 14, 1421), in Bullarium Franciscanum, t.VII, Romae 1904, n.1471, which grants “the faculty to the Custos and to the friars of Mount Zion to institute procurators or commissaries of the Holy Land, who are in charge of collecting among the faithful the necessary assets”; Calixtus III, Et si ex debito (January 10, 1455): the Pope grants power to the “Custos of Mount Zion and the friars of the Holy Land… to send friars to all parts of the world to collect alms for the preservation of the Holy Places”; Sixtus V, Nostri Officii (1589): establishes that, during three Sundays or holidays, the Ordinaries of the place shall accept offerings for the Holy Land; Urbanus VIII, Alias felices recordationes (1642), In Bullarium diplomaticum et privilegiorum…, Augusta Taurinorum 1868, t. XV, pp. 320-234, orders that a collection be done at least twice per year; Innocent X, Salvatoris et Domini Nostri (1645), in Ibid. 403-404; Pío VI, Inter cetera (July 31, 1778), who remembers the services of all sorts that the Franciscans carry out in favor of the needy; Leon XIII, Salvatoris ac Domini nostri Jesu Christi (December 26, 1887), in AOFM VII (1988) 17-18, who reduced to one day the collection that was to take place on Good Friday or any other day of the year, as per choice of the Ordinary; Pius X, Ad sublevandas Terrae Sanctae necessitates (October 23, 1913); Benedictus XV, Inclytum Fratrum Minorum conditorem (October 4, 1918), in AAS X (1918) 437-439, says that the alms collected should be delivered to the closest Commissary of the Holy Land who shall be responsible of sending them as soon as possible to the Custos; John XXIII, Sacra Palestinae Loca (April 17, 1960) , in AAS LII (1960) 388-390.
(6) Paul VI, Nobis in animo ( EV 5, 153-187; especially numbers. 171-187).
(7) Cf. S. Congregation for the Oriental Churches, “As it is known” (Collection for the Holy Land) (January 31, 1979) (EV S1, 692-695); The current year of Mary (Collection for the Holy Land) (December 9, 1987) (EV 10,2400-2403). Every year, the Congregation writes a letter, addressed to the entire Episcopate, reminding them about the duty of the collection “pro Terra Sancta” and its specific objectives.