Italian to supervise as Jerusalem awaits new Catholic Patriarch

AFP , Friday 24 Jun 2016

Pope Francis has appointed an Italian priest, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, to oversee the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem until the election of a replacement for retiring Patriarch Fouad Twal, the patriarchate said Friday.

Twal, the most senior Catholic priest in the occupied Palestinian territories, Israel, Jordan and Cyprus, had given the Pope notice of his retirement after turning 75 in October.

Pizzaballa, a Franciscan brother who was formerly the church's Custos of the Holy Land, was elevated to the status of Archbishop and appointed Apostolic Administrator for the region's Catholic mission.

"Traditionally, the election of a patriarch can take 12 to 18 months," Wadie Abunassar, spokesman for the Assembly of Catholic Bishops in the Holy Land, told AFP.

The ordination of Pizzaballa took place in September, said the Patriarchate.

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

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

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