Provincial Custody of the Orient and the Holy Land (Turkey and Lebanon) 
Mother Province: Province of St. Joseph, Spouse of the B.V.M. in Romania 

Today’s Provincial Custody of the Orient and Holy Land is the historical continuation of the Province of Syria created in 1217, with Brother Elijah of Assisi as its first Minister Provincial. That Province extended from Constantinople to Syria and Egypt. In 1998, a General Delegation was established, which included Turkey and Lebanon. On June 25, 2010, the Provincial Custody of the Orient and the Holy Land was erected under the Province of Romania. It was headquartered at the Sent Antuan Friary in Istanbul. The friars of the Province offer important service to the Church. In 2016, Friar César ESSAYAN, the former Custos of the Orient and the Holy Land, was appointed Vicar Apostolic of Beirut, Lebanon. On December 8, 2020 Friar Martin KMETEC was made Archbishop of Izmir, Turkey. On January 8, 2021, Friar Dominique Joseph MATHIEU was made Archbishop of Tehran-Ispahan of the Latins in Iran. The Jurisdiction currently has twenty-three solemnly professed friars and four friaries.

Sin el Fil, Lebanon: St. Antoine de Padoue Friary
The presence of the friars in Lebanon dates back to 1966, when they arrived to provide formation to seminarians of the Syro-Catholic Church. Two years later, the friars moved to Sin-el-Fil on the outskirts of Beirut, to a small apartment that would later become the St. Antoine de Padoue Friary. In 1970, the friars were entrusted with the care of a Roman Catholic (Latin) parish. In 1988, at the height of the civil war, the current complex (friary and church) was inaugurated. Since then, the activities of the friars have intensified. Today, in addition to performing parish ministry, the friars offer catechesis, minister to the poor and youth groups and provide hospitality.

Zahle, Lebanon: Saint François d’Assise Friary
This friary was erected in October of 2010. It was primarily intended as a house for aspirants, postulants and youth groups. In recent years, it has also been operating as a Roman Catholic Parish in the Bekaa Valley. The friars do social work and offer spiritual formation to the Secular Franciscan fraternity. The friary’s new church was consecrated in 2022. Not far from the friary is the St. Clare Hermitage, which accommodates people making spiritual retreats.

Istanbul [Büyükdere], Turkey: Meryem Ana’nın Doğuşu Friary and Parish
The Conventual Franciscan presence here dates back to the late 18th century when a missionary station was established for the local Catholic faithful from Italy, Malta and Austria. In 1807 a parish was canonically erected whose territory, besides the village of Büyükdere, included two branch parishes in Beykoz and Paşabahçe, on the coast of the Asian Bosporus. The small wooden church built in Büyükdere in 1815 soon proved insufficient and the friars built a new brick church, which was consecrated in 1866. Given the large local Catholic population, a boys’ school run by the friars and a girls’ school run by the Ivrea Sisters were also built. During World War I, the church was converted into a Turkish bathhouse. In 2008, the friars returned to Büyükdere and, in 2011, the friary was erected. Today, the friars have the pastoral and parochial care of the small Christian community there.

Istanbul [Beyoğlu], Turkey: Sent Antuan Friary and Basilica
The Sent Antuan Basilica, in the busy center of Istanbul’s megalopolis, is the heir to an unbroken Franciscan presence dating back to the Order’s first missionary expeditions to the Orient. The first friars arrived in Constantinople around 1220, and settled in the Venetian quarter at the Orthodox church dedicated to Our Lady (Theotokos Kyriotissa), which had been abandoned by the Greeks following the Fourth Crusade (1204). After a number of ups and downs, in 1724, a small, pre-existing domestic chapel, dedicated to St. Anthony, was made into the confreres’ friary and church. In 1932, the church was elevated to the title of Minor Basilica and remains so to this day. Besides being the main church for Catholics in the area, it is also frequently visited by Muslims and tourists. In 2010, the Sent Antuan Friary became the headquarters of the restored Custody of the Orient and the Holy Land. Today, the friars are entrusted with the pastoral care of the parish community; they provide services to benefit groups of tourists and pilgrims, and conduct various charitable activities.

Franciscan Missionary Center
General Secretariat for Mission Animation