Jerusalem was the first “Episcopal” See in the history of Christendom.
At the dispersion of the Apostles, the Church of Jerusalem was directed by St. James the Apostle and his successors.
It is, however, the churches founded by the Apostles that take on importance (Antioch, Alexandria, Rome), and Jerusalem, which only later acquired the status of Patriarchate at the same time as Constantinople in 451.
Many Patriarchs followed one another in Jerusalem until the Crusades, when the Crusaders gave themselves a Patriarch of Latin Rite in 1099.
The jurisdiction of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem throughout this period extended to the territory of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. The Patriarch directly controlled the Christian quarter of Jerusalem and had three suffragan bishops: Hebron, Lydda-Ramla and Bethlehem-Ascalon. The Patriarchate counted four other archdioceses: Tyre, Caesarea, Nazareth and Petra.
The Latin Patriarchs succeeded one another in Jerusalem from 1099 to 1187, then in Acre (Akka). In 1291, however, the fall of Saint-Jean-d’Acre (1291) ended the presence of a Latin Patriarch living in Jerusalem. It moved to Rome.
The Latin presence in the Holy Land was then maintained by the Franciscans, present in the Holy Land since 1217, were given by the Pope the guard of the Holy Places with a “Custos” (guardian in Latin) at their head. France gradually acquired a right of protection over the Holy Places and Christians of the Ottoman Empire. This would result in the famous capitulations, foundation of the French era in the Holy Land and its mission (still current) protection.
Since its creation in the seventeenth century, the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith – the organ of the Holy See in charge of Missions – had the wish to restore a Latin Patriarchate in the Holy Land, but it was only with the election of Pius IX in 1847, that the project really revived. On July 23, 1847, the Pontiff published the Apostolic Letter Nulla Celebrior of July 23, 1847 announcing the restoration of the Patriarchate and the appointment of the new Patriarch on October 4, 1847.
Bishop Valerga arrived in January 1848 in Jerusalem where he was received with enthusiasm. He moved quickly to create a patriarchal seminary and developed a network of missions in Palestine. To do this he relied on the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, reorganized at the same period, which still today is faithful to its mission and supports the Patriarchate in the maintenance of the Patriarchal clergy, the seminary, schools and religious institutions.
The Latin Patriarchs of Jerusalem since 1847:
- Bishop Giuseppe Valerga (1847-1872)Bishop Vincente Bracco (1873-1889)
- Bishop Luigi Piavi (1889-1905)
- Archbishop Filippo Camassei (1906-1919)
- Bishop Luigi Barlassina (1920-1947)
- Bishop Alberto Gori (1949-1970)
- Bishop Giacomo Beltritti (1970-1987)
- Bishop Michel Sabbah (1987-2008)
- Bishop Fouad Twal (2008-2016)
- Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Apostolic Administrator sede vacante (2016-)