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Franciscans at the Holy Land

05/24/2014 Comment
Fra Angelico

St. Francis and the Sultan

– Fra Angelico

Francis first visited the Holy Land in the early 13th century. Like Pope Francis today, St. Francis went to the strife filled land with a message of peace and a plea for nonviolence.

Ever since then, Franciscans have been present, looking after holy places, welcoming pilgrims and ministering to Christians, in the land where Jesus walked. The province of the Order of Friars Minor in the region is known as the Custos of the Holy Land.

Church of the Wedding

One of the churches under the care of these Franciscans is the Church of the Wedding at Cana, which marks the place where Jesus performed his first miracle, turning water into wine.

At this site, there’s 19th century Church that shelters beneath it the remains of Jewish buildings from the 3rd to 4th centuries.

Also at near the Church of Wedding, is a chapel in honor of St. Bartholomew (Nathanael), who was from the town of Cana. 

Register writers Marge Fenelon and Peter Smith (who supplied the photographs) are were in Cana as a part of their Holy Land coverage. At the Church of the Wedding at Cana they benefitted from the Franciscans' hospitality and witnessed the renewal of wedding vows of two older couples. 

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Pope Francis visits the Holy Land May 24 to May 26. The motto of the pilgrimage is “So that they may be one.” At the center of the pope’s pilgrimage will be the meeting with Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and the heads of the Churches in Jerusalem. The ecumenical gathering marks the 50th anniversary of the meeting in Jerusalem of Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople in 1964 to express their commitment to unity.

These writers are covering the Pope’s Holy Land Pilgrimage:

Michele Chabin is the Register’s longtime Middle East correspondent. She has lived in Israel for two decades and has covered religious news in that region for USA Today and Religious News Service among other publications. Follow Michele on twitter at: @michelechabin

Marge Fenelon is a Catholic wife, mother, author, columnist, and speaker. She is a frequent contributor to a number of Catholic media outlets. Marge has written several books about Marian devotion and Catholic family life. Her latest book is Imitating Mary: Ten Marian Virtues for the Modern Mom (Ave Maria Press, 2013). Follow Marge at

Peter Jesserer Smith is a Register staff writer. His writings have also appeared in Our Sunday Visitor and on Peter is a 2011 graduate of the National Journalism Center. Contact Peter at And follow him at