Being the most spiritually significant place in the world, the Holy Land gets its share of well-known pilgrims as well as average travelers. You’d probably recognize some of the well-known people the Holy Land Franciscans have hosted in recent years. Here are a few of them:
Famous Holy Land Pilgrims
George W Bush
Former Holy Land Franciscan Custos Fr. Pierrebatista with President George W. Bush
In the last year of his presidency, George W. Bush made a trip to the Holy Land to meet with various leaders in a landmark peace mission. While in the region, he made trips to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, Capernaum and the Sea of Galilee, and the Mount of Beatitudes.
Holy Land Franciscan Friar Fr. Peter Vasco, an American and a guide in the Holy Land, had this to say about the U.S. president at the time:
“I was very impressed with his spirituality and goodness. He is a deeply spiritual Christian man. He certainly wants peace and is very committed to a two-state solution.”
Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI poses with the Holy Land Franciscans during his pilgrimage.
In May of 2009, the then Pope, Benedict XVI, made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He visited many of the holy sites including the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, The Nativity Grotto in Bethlehem, The Upper Room (the site of The Last Supper), Annunciation Grotto in Nazareth, and the baptism site on the Jordan River.
Pope Benedict made many addresses to the people there throughout his trip and specifically addressed Holy Land Christians:
“Fidelity to your Christian roots, fidelity to the Church’s mission in the Holy Land, demands of each of you a particular kind of courage: the courage of conviction, born of personal faith, not mere social convention or family tradition; the courage to engage in dialogue and to work side by side with other Christians in the service of the Gospel and solidarity with the poor, the displaced, and the victims of profound human tragedies; the courage to build new bridges to enable a fruitful encounter of people of different religions and cultures, and thus to enrich the fabric of society. It also means bearing witness to the love which inspires us to ‘lay down’ our lives in the service of others, and thus to counter ways of thinking which justify ‘taking’ innocent lives.”
Pope Francis walks with then Holy Land Franciscan Custos, Fr. Pierrebatista.
In May of 2014, Pope Francis visited the Holy Land, stopping to talk to Christians in Bethlehem, visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and Gethsemane, and holding a Mass in the Cenacle, or Upper Room, the site of The Last Supper. He also made an unusual stop at the Holy Land Franciscan Convent of St. Saviour. No pope had ever visited the convent, which is the central house of the Holy Land Franciscans. Ninety-five brothers in the refectory greeted him with applause.
President Donald Trump poses with the Holy Land’s Latin Patriarchs including Holy Land Franciscan Custos Fr. Francesco Patton.
Father Francesco Patton, then and present Custos of the Holy Land Franciscans, hosted the current U.S. President as he visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Trump also made a visit to the Western Wall along with First Lady Melania, daughter Ivanka, and son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Representatives of the three Latin Churches guide Prince William through the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
In June of this year, Prince William made the first official visit of a British Royal to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Others had been previously, but not in an official capacity. At the Holy Sepulcher, he greeted the patriarchs of all three Latin churches, including the Holy Land Franciscan Custos, Fr. Francesco Patton. During his trip, he also visited the Temple Mount and the Western Wall. He also stopped at the gravesite of Princess Alice, his paternal grandfather’s mother, who is buried in the Church of St. Mary Magdalene above the Garden of Gethsemane.
Franciscan Friar Br. John Luke Gregory said of the visit:
“I told Prince William that I was at the Holy Sepulcher when in the past his grandfather, Prince Philip, and on another occasion, Prince Charles, came on private visit. This is the first time there has been an official visit and it is a positive gesture in my opinion.”