Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa Archbishop in Jerusalem |  June 24, 2016

Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa. (photo Nizar Halloun/Cts)

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal and appointed apostolic administrator Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, who now becomes archbishop.

The news has recently been announced by the press department of the Holy See. Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal – who was 75 last October  – and decided to appoint in his place an apostolic administrator: Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa (51), who last month completed twelve years of ministry as Custos of the Holy Land and now becomes archbishop. He will be ordained on September 10th in Bergamo (Italy).

Even though some Vatican experts had aired the hypothesis in recent weeks that Father Pizzaballa could succeed Archbishop Twal, the former Custos had never given any importance to these rumours. In the message he sent today to the faithful and the clergy of the Patriarchate, he himself wrote, “I am also asked to “return to Jerusalem” (cf. Luke 24): as the Apostles were, after the “events in Jerusalem” and the encounter with the Resurrected One; the Lord, through the Pope, also asks me to return to the Holy City after my experience as Custos. I cannot hide from you  that I was surprised by this request, knowing my personal and objective limits. You can therefore imagine my trepidation and my concern for the position to which I have been appointed. I can also understand your many questions and perhaps your perplexities as well. However, I know well that it is He who calls and sends and in Him I trust: “My grace is sufficient for thee” (2Cor 12, 9). I am returning to Jerusalem, with the desire to serve in the first place the local clergy and the whole community, asking everyone for comprehension, friendship and collaboration.”

The apostolic administrator is a figure used by the Holy See, after the departure of the bishop, to administer, with full powers, a diocese which is in particular conditions (and which formally remains vacant). The term of office of the apostolic administrator may be for a specific period of time but also without any expiry date.

Since the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem was restored in the Holy City by Pope Pius IX in 1847, there have been nine patriarchs. All of them were Italian except for the last two, chosen from the Arab clergy: Bishop Michel Sabbah (Patriarch from 1987 to 2008) and Archbishop Fouad Twal (2008-2016). The nine also include another Custos of the Holy Land who went on the lead the patriarchal diocese, Bishop Alberto Gori, who was patriarch between 1949 and 1970, after having performed the ministry of Custos of the Holy Land from 1937 to 1949.

Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa was born in Cologno al Serio, in the diocese and province of  Bergamo, on 21st April 1965. He entered the seminary of the friars minor of Emilia Romagna in September 1976 and on 5th September 1984 he began his novitiate at the convent of La Verna. He made his perpetual profession in Bologna on 14th October 1989. After the first cycle of philosophical-theological studies, he took a Bachelor’s degree in Theology at the Pontifical University Antonianum in Rome. On 15th September 1990 he was ordained in the cathedral of Bologna by Cardinal Giacomo Biffi. After arriving at the Custody of the Holy Land on 7th October 1990, he completed his postgraduate studies at the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum in Jerusalem in 1993. He subsequently taught Biblical Hebrew at the Franciscan Faculty of Biblical and archaeological sciences, Jerusalem.

He entered service at the Custody on 2nd July 1999. He was responsible for the pastoral care of Hebrew-speaking Catholic faithful and appointed Patriarchal Vicar in 2005 until 2008.

With the consent of the Holy See, the governing body of the Order of Friars Minor elected him Custos of the Holy Land in May 2004. On 22nd March 2010 he was re-elected and in 2013 reconfirmed for a further three-year period.


Click here to read the whole letter sent by Fr. Pizzaballa to the diocese of Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

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