The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem is the See of the sui iuris Latin Church of the Holy Land. It is part of the Roman rite. The Latin Patriarchate has not had a patriarch since June 2016.
As apostolic administrator, Pizzaballa oversaw the patriarchate together with auxiliary Bishop Giacinto Marcuzzo, whose resignation, for the ordinary reason of age, was accepted by Pope Francis in August.
Now the Holy Land’s Catholics await the pope’s nomination of a new patriarch and auxiliary bishop.
Pizzaballa told EWTN News he could not share the news of his next position yet, but “in a few days it will be known.”
About the path before him, he said, “for 30 years, for most of my life, I lived in the Holy Land, so I am part of the Holy Land and I continue to be part of it. So we have to remain united in prayer, first of all, in friendship; wherever Providence will bring me, I will bring the Holy Land.”
The archbishop said that Christians in the Holy Land were suffering from the coronavirus pandemic, noting that Jerusalem had already experienced two separate lockdowns.
“And it was very difficult, not only because the health situation of many families but for the economic situation. The consequences of the lockdown is that thousands of families, especially Christian families, now are without jobs, without work,” he explained.
Pilgrimages to the holy sites are a major source of income for Christians, but with borders closed, “pilgrimage is now totally canceled,” he said, making it “a very, very difficult situation for hundreds of families in the Bethlehem area especially, in the Nazareth area, and in Jordan, of course.”
“I don’t think that in less than a year we can have the normal pilgrimage situation we had before,” he said.
Poverty is also growing for Christians in Palestine, who face the same problems due to the pandemic, as well as the inability to enter Israel for work.
After long-standing conflicts in the wider area, such as in Syria, and Iraq, as well as instability and disaster in Lebanon, poverty in Jordan, and the political situation between Israel and Palestine, you can feel that the people of the Holy Land are frustrated, Pizzaballa said.
“All these aspects that are not new, because we are seeing this situation since years, create a lot of frustration and a lot of temptations, temptation to leave, to find their future somewhere else,” he said.
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“We try to insist to the population, to tell [them] they have to remain, that they have a vocation to remain. But when they have children and a family, it is difficult to convince them.”
Since he became apostolic administrator in 2016, Pizzaballa said that political tensions had worsened, but a “positive aspect” was that among Christians “we have a better understanding.”
Pope Francis appointed Pizzaballa to the position following his role as head of the Custody of the Holy Land, a province of the Order of Friars Minor which encompasses Israel, Palestine, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Cyprus, and the Dodecanese in Greece, with convents also in other countries.
The Franciscan followed Patriarch Fouad Twal in the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. In 2016, the Latin Patriarchate was facing grave financial difficulties and teetering on bankruptcy from debts amounting to more than $100 million.
“They have been four difficult years,” Pizzaballa said. “I had a very clear mandate: first to put order in the administration.”
As apostolic administrator, the bishop reorganized the patriarchate’s financial management, put in place new internal and external controls, and created more transparency.