- Mar 3, 2021
The Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land launched a virtual Way of the Cross project for pilgrims during Lent because the Holy Land is not accessible for a second year in a row due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Franciscans trace their presence in the Holy Land to 1217 when St. Francis of Assisi founded the Province of the Holy Land, a custodian priory of the order he founded in 1209 — formally called the Order of Friars Minor. On Feb. 14, the order will celebrate the 600th anniversary of Pope Martin V instituting the Commissaries of the Holy Land Feb. 14, 1421.
Bishops who spent six days visiting virtually with Christians in the Holy Land said “it has become painfully clear that there is today less cause for optimism than at any time in recent history.”
Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, reaffirmed the Catholic Church’s recognition of the official baptism site of Jesus in Jordan and said a new chapel on the opposite side of the river is purely touristic, not historic.
Bishops from three continents met virtually with Catholics in the Holy Land this year and, despite not being able to meet face-to-face, said remote discussions have still allowed them to listen to local Christians and demonstrate their solidarity.
For the first time in 54 years, a Mass will be celebrated Jan. 10, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, at St. John the Baptist Chapel on the banks of the Jordan River.