Italian appointed Catholic patriarch of Jerusalem

Jerusalem (AFP) –

Advertising

Pope Francis has appointed an Italian priest, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, as Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, the patriarchate said in a statement Saturday.

He had filled the post in an interim capacity since the retirement in 2016 of Patriarch Fouad Twal, a Jordanian, at the age of 75.

"His Holiness, Pope Francis has announced the appointment of Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa as the Latin Patriarch in Jerusalem after his service as Apostolic Administrator for a period of four years," the statement said.

"May His Beatitude be granted good health and divine blessing to continue serving our Local Church, while promoting peace, justice and reconciliation."

The Jerusalem patriarch is the most senior Roman Catholic priest in the occupied Palestinian territories, Israel, Jordan and Cyprus.

Pizzaballa, a Franciscan brother, was formerly the church's custos of the Holy Land -- responsible for caring for and maintaining Christian presence in much of the Middle East, as well as coordinating and organising the thousands of Catholic pilgrims to Jerusalem every year.

He was a pastor for Hebrew-speaking Catholics in Israel and a member of a commission for relations with Judaism. He speaks fluent Hebrew.

The past two Latin patriarchs of Jerusalem, Twal and Palestinian Michel Sabbah -- like the vast majority of local Catholics -- were native Arabic speakers.