INTERVIEW – Newly appointed as Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate by Pope Francis on June, 24, 2016, Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, who was Custos of the Holy Land for 12 years, evokes the surprise of his nomination and the challenges of his new mission.
In what state of mind did you receive your appointment for this sensitive and important task entrusted to you? How do you envision your new mission?
I came to know of this nomination with great surprise and amazement. I had in mind that at least for a while, I would be away from the Holy Land. Rather to my surprise I was called back to serve the rich and dynamic Latin Patriarchate, and I will try to learn from a new perspective.
How could I express to the Holy See’s higher authorities of my trepidation and concern, because they are aware of my personal limitations. They are also well aware that many people will ask many questions.
I will try to keep everything in my heart, to try to understand how to nurture the life of the Church in this particular circumstance.
At the same time I am also aware that I have to overcome my fears and my complexes. As St. Paul says, (2 Cor 12: 9-10) “I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me…. for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
What are the first words you would like to address to the faithful of the Latin Christian community in the Holy Land?
Hope, faith, courage. We want to look to the future of our Church with confidence and with hope, certain that the Lord sustains and accompanies us. We must and we want to be a Church that enters dialogue with all in a Land torn by divisions of all kinds, and to be a small sign of unity.
Our little fears should not become the yardstick by which we measure the life of the Church. Instead, we want to watch our portion of the Church with the eyes of the Spirit, capable of seeing life and building it even in the most difficult situations.
God needs poor instruments like us, because the greatness of His love is manifested through us.
The Church, our Church, must have an extensive breathe, that can go further beyond, always seeing “more”, and bear witness to her belonging to Jesus.
What do you think could be the most important challenges of your mandate?
It is too early to specifically define the challenges before me. I am aware that, as Administrator, I will have a limited time and must then realistically measure the service to be carried out. It is clear to me that I can do nothing by myself, but that the cooperation of the whole Church, bishops, priests and laity is a priority. I think my role is to lead the way, as John the Baptist did. I will try to quickly meet with the local clergy, the soul of the Diocese; the seminarians and the large religious presence. I will pay attention to the vastness of the diocese and its complexities, to enter into the situations with humility and respect, and together try to find ways of solution.
What is your view about the situation in the Holy Land, marked by such deep and complex conflict, and what you think is the role of the Mother Church of Jerusalem in this torn land?
As I said, in a land wounded by divisions and conflicts, the priority is to be a sign of unity among ourselves and with other Christian communities. Then, to have an open, honest and friendly dialogue with the religious communities of Muslims and Jews.
It is important to try to understand the complex situations, and not rush to make judgments; to have a heart eager to meet everyone, to work peacefully with everybody without distinction and without fear; and for justice and peace.
Aware that the solution to the problems facing the country is remote, so we want to stay in this situation with our Christian attitude: clear, without fears and wholeheartedly willing to welcome anyone.
Interview by Myriam Ambroselli