The Franciscan Friars have had a long tradition in the Holy Land, stretching back to St Francis himself when he made his first pilgrimage to Egypt during the fifth Crusade in 1219. It was here St Francis had an audience with Sultan Melek-el-Kamel and challenged Islamic scholars to a test of true religion by fire. Although he did not succeed in converting the Sultan, the Sultan's last words to Francis were, “Pray for me that God may deign to reveal to me that law and faith which is most pleasing to him.”
After his meeting with the Sultan, Francis and his travelling companions continued to Palestine. It was due to this visit that the Franciscans were allowed to stay on in the Holy Land after the fall of the Crusader Kingdom and granted the role of "Custodians of the Holy Land", an honour they still hold today.
A number of friars from the Holy Spirit Province have travelled and worked in the Holy Land in various roles. Currently, there are two friars from the Province residing in the Holy Land. Friar Fabian Adkins ministers to pilgrims at the shrine on Mount Nebo, Jordan, and Friar Matthew Milos cares for the church and ministers to pilgrims who visit the church in Nazareth, Israel.
The Franciscans are also responsible for the annual 'Good Friday Collection' taken up in all Catholic churches across the world. Within the Province, three Commissariats (offices) of the Holy Land exist for fund-raising and promotional purposes and are co-ordinated by friars:
Friar Carl Schafer (Australia)
Friar Joseph Nasanathan (Singapore/Malaysia)