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INTERVIEW – On June 24, 2017, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa appointed Bishop Boulos Marcuzzo as Patriarchal Vicar for Jerusalem and Palestine, succeeding Bishop William Shomali. On the eve of his Thanksgiving Mass on Saturday, September 23, in Nazareth, the media office of the Latin Patriarchate spoke to Bishop Marcuzzo about his new mission and challenges that lie ahead.

How did you receive your appointment as Bishop for Jerusalem and Palestine? And were you surprised by it?

In light of the changes at the Latin Patriarchate, I was expecting to be a part of them. The situation is different here in Jerusalem and Palestine but we should be fully ready to accept the changes that come from the leaders of the Church, for we see in them the Will of the God and the Church and this is what we want and accept.

 What are some the challenges you might face as a Patriarchal Vicar in Jerusalem and Palestine? And in what ways the pastoral ministry could differ towards the Christians in Jerusalem and Palestine from the Christians in Galilee?

The challenges in Jerusalem and Palestine differ from those in Galilee. The Christian people are the same, and so is their language and the pastoral challenges of the family and the youth. Moreover, there are differences in mentality, culture and administration between the two regions. This requires the adoption of another style in apostolic and pastoral work when dealing with the family and the youth.

In Israel, most families live in a westernized, non-conservative environment, while families in Jerusalem and Palestine are still maintaining their traditions, lifestyle and unity. The youth in Israel are still discovering their identities while in Palestine, they know exactly who they are but lack the means to live this identity. Throughout my service in Galilee, I had worked with the youth to answer the question of “who am I?” and “how can an Arab Christian in Galilee live his or her Christian and Arab identity as well as belong to society?”

On the other hand, this matter differs completely in Jerusalem and Palestine. The issue in question here is figuring out a way to live the Christian identity without hesitation, using the Bible as its guide in the face of the difficult challenges and circumstances.

I hope that priests maintain their brotherly love for each other, not only when working together but in life also. The first Patriarchs wanted a Patriarchate whose priests behave as a family. I also hope that the clergy maintain their unity with the Christian people; to live with and serve them which in turn strengthens and helps us succeed in our pastoral work.

Challenges that face the family, the youth and the pastoral work in the parish and diocese exist in all Churches. The youth are the future of the Church and thus we should devote our time and effort for them. For the families here, they still enjoy admirable virtues like unity and affiliation. Nevertheless, some mentalities and ideas make their way to our hearts and minds and have an impact on the spirit of the family and its way of living. Sometimes we wonder: Do the members of Christian families pray together in our country? Are they having enough children? Here, I see a big difference between villages and cities, where the impact is much greater in the latter.

What advice would you like to give to Fr. Hanna Kildani, who will carry on his ministry for the first time outside of Jordan?

Fr. Hanna Kildani has an extensive experience in history and pastoral work and he knows the Patriarchate, the Middle East and the needs of the Church. As I already mentioned, there are differences in mentality, culture and administration between Palestine, Israel and Jordan. If I had to advise Fr. Hanna Kildani on his new ministry in Galilee, I would ask him to be patient, to listen and to observe his surroundings. With time I’m sure he will tackle all areas of his work with proper decisions and necessary action.

I hope that he will combine his love for the local Church with that of the pilgrims in order to leave a good impression of what we have and do. We are the only Church in the world that oversees the Holy Sites, with its historical, geographical, theological and pastoral dimensions.

Another advice; in the nineties the local Churches organized a pastoral synod which resulted in a general pastoral plan. I hope that Fr. Kildani will continue to implement this experience because it reflects a clear vision of our commitments and presence.

Interview conducted by Saher Kawas

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