Since the early days of the Franciscan presence in the Holy Land, the Friars sought all means to spread not only the devotion towards the Christian Shrines but also looked for the generous support of the Christian nations to help them fulfill their duties. Having seen that the life of the Friars "among the Saracens" was impossible and that the Holy Places could not be preserved without alms from Christian princes,the first statutes of the Holy Land, which date back to 1377, established that, on the advice of his Council, the Custos was to authorise one or two lay people to deal with the administration of the above alms at the Custody’s headquarters. The Custos had the power, although he had to follow his Council’s advice, to dismiss inefficient or disloyal administrators from their posts.This first solution provided only a partial answer to the problem. It soon became evident that someone was needed to manage the affairs of the Custody of the Holy Land in Europe also.
About 1392, the Guardian Father, Gerardo Calvet, used a notarial deed to entrust a "very extensive power" of attorney for the interests of the Custody in the Republic of Venice to the Venetian nobleman, Ruggero Contarini. In a will dated May 22nd 1415, Contarini in turn appointed his nephew, Carlo Contarini, as his successor in the post of "Commissary" of the Holy Land, according to the terms of the "Warrant" with which he had been entursted by the Custos.
During the fifteenth century, the character and functions of the Commissary of the Holy Land became more and more well defined until 1512, when they received official approval.Thls process was brought to maturity by the General Constitutions of the Order in 1621 and the foundations were laid for all subsequent Franciscan legislation in this field.
The main aim of these Commissariats is to have an effective means of spreading information as well as building interest in the Holy Land and its people, its message and its reality, its difficulties and its hopes! It is thanks to these friars spread all over the world that the Franciscan Custody today can keep on the work it has been entrusted with by the Authorities of the Church. In this way they are able to foster a worldwide interest in the Holy Land which serve as the roots of our Christian faith. Numbering 82 they are spread in 44 different countries: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brasil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Ecuador, El Salvador, England, France, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Korea (South), Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Papua-New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, South Africa, Switzerland, Taiwan, Uruguay, U.S.A., Venezuela.