An encouragement to support local ecclesial communities and gratefulness for the work of contemplation, research and study of archaeological evidence and for accompanying pilgrims: this is the content of the letter that Pope Francis has sent to the Custos of the Holy Land, Father Francesco Patton, to mark the 800 years of the Franciscan presence in the Holy Land. The letter was delivered by the prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, Card. Leonardo Sandri, who is visiting the Holy land from 16 to 21 October on the occasion of the celebrations for the anniversary, during the Pontifical Mass at which he presided this morning at the Church of Saint Saviour in Jerusalem. “Assiduous in contemplation and in prayer, simple and poor, obedient to the Bishop of Rome – the letter reads -, you are engaged also in the present in living in the Holy Land next to brothers of different cultures, ethnicities and religions, sowing peace, fraternity and respect. Your willingness to accompany the steps of pilgrims from every part of the world through welcome and guidance is known by all. You have dedicated yourselves to research on archaeological evidence and the detailed study of the Sacred Scriptures. I do not wish to forget, aside from the guardianship and enlivenment of Shrines, your commitment to the service of the local ecclesiastical community. I encourage you to persevere gladly in supporting these brothers of ours, especially the poorest and weakest; in the education of young people – who often risk losing hope in a context that is still without peace – in welcoming the elderly and the care for the sick, living out the works of mercy in a concrete way in daily life”. From Pope Francis also the renewal of the mandate of the custody of the Holy Places, in union with “my venerable Predecessors, starting from Clement VI”. “You are ambassadors of the entire People of God, who with liberality you have always sustained, especially through the ‘Collection for the Holy Land’, which contributes to ensuring that in the Land of Jesus, faith is made visible in works. In a special way you are supported, on behalf of Peter’s Successor, by the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, which in these very days is celebrating its own centenary”.