It is the highest honor that can be given in the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, and on Sunday, May 29, the Custos Pierbattista Pizzaballa was elevated to the rank of Grand Commander of the Order of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher.
The event took place during a ceremony at the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate. This is the first time a Custos was honored at this level by the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem, whose link with the Holy Sepulcher is so strong that the flag of the Greek Orthodox Hellenic brotherhood is “TΦ” (Tau + Phi) from the Greek word taphos meaning “sepulcher.”
Patriarch Theophilos III began his speech with the words of St. Paul to Timothy. “Thus those who serve well as deacons gain good standing and much confidence in their faith in Christ Jesus” (Tim 3:13). And his speech was very warm. “Your diakonia as Custos of the Holy Land and Superior of the Franciscan fraternity was exemplary. During your term here in the Holy City of Jerusalem, you played a role in building up trust and mutual respect between different Christian religious communities in general and our Greek Orthodox community in particular.”
The Patriarch also highlighted the progress “that everyone said was unattainable,” which included the restoration agreements and especially that of the Lord’s Tomb in the Basilica of the Resurrection.
Anyone who has followed the meetings in recent years between the Franciscan and Greek Orthodox communities actually have noticed that the relationships have warmed up. It is also important to remember that several friars are fluent in Greek, a language necessary to serve the Custody and something that is greatly appreciated at the patriarchate.» custodia.org