Mons. Pizzaballa in the light of Easter

For all those who knew the franciscan friar and Custos of the Holy Land, the solemn entry into Jerusalem of Mons. Pierbattista Pizzaballa as apostolic administrator of the diocese of Jerusalem was a celebration tinged with curiosity.

On Wednesday, September 21, the crowd was packed at the Jaffa Gate, waiting for the car out of which the apostolic administrator Mons. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, was to come wearing purple cassock and surplice.

The procession took a little while become orderly because, despite the barriers installed by the police, the Christians of the city and large quantity of religious men and women held out their hands hoping that to be able to shake hands with the new bishop.

A large delegation of Friars Minor had made the trip to welcome their brother and from now on their fellow priest. At the head of the delegation was the Custos Fr. Francesco Patton and the Custodial Vicar, Br. Dobromir Jazstal, as well as the canonical visitor, Jakab Várnai, along with the Custody’s whole discretorium, who interrupted their conference so as to be part of this event for Jerusalem’s local church.

When he was finally made his way up the street of the Latin Patriarchate, to the song Lauda Jerusalem, which was sung by the seminarians of the Holy Land, Mons. Pizzaballa went to the sacristy to put on the liturgical vestments for vespers in the pro-cathedral.

On the threshold, he was greeted by Fr. Jamal Khader on behalf of the canons of the Holy Sepulcher. It is also important to note that H.E. Cardinal O’Brien, the Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher, came from Rome specially for the occasion.

The applause that the apostolic administrator received competed with with the singing of the Te Deum as he went up the aisle wearing his miter and holding the pastoral staff.

Also present in the church were the representatives of 13 churches in Jerusalem, as well as representatives of the Palestinian and Israeli civil authorities, the Consuls General of the Latin Nations. But the church was too small to fit the crowd and many had to stay outside.

Mons. Shomali, on behalf of the college of Latin bishops and of the Latin church, said a word of welcome for the new archbishop of the holy city. “By the imposition of hands and the prayer of the Church, you are the shepherd and the pastor of our church. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, we have gladly sung.” In the history of patriarchate, recalled Mons. Shomali, this is the third time that a Custos has been entrusted with the pastoral care of the diocese. It is a sign of the unity of our Church and we will continue to work with the Custody and all of the religious congregations for the good of the Church and faith, all living alongside each other.”

After the singing of Vespers, Mons. Pizzaballa spoke to the congregation, and through it, to the whole diocese. In a short message, he unveiled the most important goals that he has for his diocese “for the years to come.”

“I would like for Jerusalem to rejoice… for us and for the whole Church, this is an opportunity to meet and greet each other, to build roads and bridges, not walls. I can only repeat this desire over and over: welcoming, listening, discerning and together creating the path of the Church for the years to come. I know it will not be easy. I am not naive. (…) These difficult circumstances remind us not to give into illusions, we are called to be a Church (…) We must start from the awareness of Christ’s presence among us. It is this awareness that must be at at the root of our choices and our goals. Everything else comes after that. I ask you all to help me in this service.”

After the final blessing, the archbishop spent nearly an hour being congratulated by all of those present at the ceremony.

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