Churches and Religion
The Holy Land means almost all the territory designated as the Promised Land in sacred scripture, especially the territory associated with the life and teaching of Jesus. In modern political terms it includes much of the Middle East: all of Israel/Palestine and Jordan and parts of Lebanon, Syria and Egypt. The Order, in addition to its concern for the preservation of the holy places, sustains and aids the religious, charitable, cultural and social works and institutions of the church throughout the Holy Land, particularly those of and in the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The charity of the Order also extends to all those in need regardless of their beliefs or religious profession.
The Roman Catholic Church and many Protestant and Evangelical churches and communities are present in the Holy Land.
Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem — The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem is the Roman Catholic diocese whose territory includes Israel/Palestine, Jordan and Cyprus. The bishop of this diocese enjoys the honorary title of patriarch. The Order’s first obligation is towards the Latin Patriarchate with which it maintains its historic and traditional ties.
Custody of the Holy Land — The Custody of the Holy Land is a special province of the Franciscan Order which both has its own proper permanent members and also welcomes Franciscans from other jurisdictions for temporary service. From 1333 until the restoration of the Latin Patriarchate in 1847 it represented the Latin Church in the Holy Land. It not only has the care of most of the major Christian shrines but also sustains a network of parishes, educational institutions and social service institutions throughout the Holy Land.
Apostolic Vicariates — In Lebanon, Syria and Egypt there are Latin vicariates for the pastoral care of Roman Catholics, most of whom are members of religious orders.
Protestant Churches — Anglicans and Lutheransboth have dioceses seated in Jerusalem. Other Protestant and Christian churches and communities also have institutions and programs.
The homeland of three of the ancient Eastern patriarchal churches is the Holy Land and many others are located there. The majority of the Christians of the Holy Land belong to one or another of the Eastern Churches.
Eastern Catholic Churches –There are five Catholic patriarchs residing in the Holy Land: the Maronite, Syriac and Armenian patriarchs in Lebanon; the Melkite patriarch in Syria; and the Coptic patriarch in Egypt. Most of them have ecclesiastical jurisdictions (eparchies, exarchates and patriarchal vicariates) throughout the region. The Chaldean patriarch resides in Iraq and also has ecclesiastical jurisdictions and representation in most of the Holy Land.
Orthodox Churches – Six Orthodox patriarchs reside in the Holy Land: three Greek Orthodox patriarchs in Jerusalem, Syria and Egypt; the Syriac Orthodox patriarch in Syria; the Coptic Orthodox patriarch in Egypt; and the Armenian Apostolic patriarch in Jerusalem. There is also an Armenian Apostolic Catholicos in Lebanon. Each of them has ecclesiastical jurisdictions in particular countries or throughout the region. The Russian Orthodox Church has extensive properties and shrines in Israel/Palestine.
The principal religion in the countries of the Holy Land is Islam with the exception of Israel where it is Judaism; however many Muslims live there as well. The majority of the Muslims in the Holy Land are of the Sunnite branch of Islam; there are also Shiites, some smaller Muslim sects and Druze, historically an offshoot of the minority Shiite branch of Islam but considered a separate religion.