Patriarch Pizzaballa makes solemn entry into the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem

Screenshot 2020 12 04 at 173737 Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa prays in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem Dec. 4, 2020. Screenshot from livestream

Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa made a solemn entry into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre Friday as the new Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem.

“I cannot but experience feelings of fear in the face of a mission that exceeds my capacities. But I accept this new obedience, which I wish to fulfill with joy. It is certainly a cross, but a cross that bears fruit of salvation each time it is embraced in joy,” Patriarch Pizzaballa said Dec. 4.

“The Cross of the Son of God, raised only a few meters away from here, has given meaning to all the crosses of the world.”

Wearing a face mask and a bishop’s miter, the new Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem processed into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which contains the tomb of Christ and the site of the crucifixion.

He prayed at Christ’s tomb before offering a few remarks at the ceremony, which was broadcast via livestream.


“Here we are … in front of the Empty Tomb of Christ -- the heart of our faith and of our Christian community,” Pizzaballa said.

“It is a tradition here in our Land, that at the start of a new ecclesial journey, we unite at this Holy Place, to remember Easter whatever the time of the liturgical year. There is no beginning, no ecclesial initiative, no project that can exist outside of the Easter experience,” he said.

“‘To celebrate Easter’ means to give one’s life out of love. And this is particularly true for our Church in Jerusalem which has this specific calling and mission of living in the light of Easter.”

As the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Pizzaballa will lead the estimated 293,000 Latin Catholics in Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan, and Cyprus.

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He acknowledged that the region faces political and economic difficulties, which have worsened with the coronavirus outbreak.

“Enormous economic and social problems confront us, aggravated all the more by the ongoing pandemic,” Pizzaballa said. 

“We look forward to saying a clear and peaceful word regarding politics, which is often fragile and short-sighted, but which weighs heavily on the lives of all our families.”

Pizzaballa has lived in the Middle East since 1990. The Italian moved to the Holy Land shortly after his priestly ordination as a Franciscan to study biblical theology at the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum in Jerusalem.

He went on to serve as Vicar of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem for the pastoral care of Hebrew-speaking Catholics in Israel, and oversaw the publication of the Roman Missal in Hebrew in 1995.

Pizzaballa also served as Custos of the Holy Land -- the major superior of the Friars Minor in the Middle East -- from 2004 to 2016. He was appointed apostolic administrator sede vacante of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem on June 24, 2016.

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Pope Francis named him the new Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem in October. In November, Pizzaballa traveled to Galilee and the Sharon Plain to entrust his mission to the prayer of contemplative religious orders in the Holy Land.

Pizzaballa will return to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on the morning of Dec. 5 to offer his first Pontifical Mass.

“Dear brothers and sisters, I invite you to pray for me and for our beloved Church in Jerusalem, so that I may lead it, serve it and love it with an undivided heart,” Pizzaballa said.

“From this Holy Place, the Risen Lord repeats the words that He spoke to the women on the day of the Resurrection: ‘Do not fear; go and tell my brothers’ … These are the words of the Risen Christ and they must always resound in our hearts. We are not alone, nor orphans, we need not be afraid. We are sure that the Risen Lord will once again fill us with His Holy Spirit and make us bold witnesses of His love in His Land.”

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