PALESTINE/ISRAEL – The Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem began visits to the parishes of the diocese at the beginning of the winter and will finish at the beginning of the summer. After a recent round when Archbishop Pizzaballa visited Zababdeh, Jenin, Jaffa Nazareth, Nazareth, and Rameh, he spoke with the media office of the Latin Patriarchate about these visits.
Bishop Pizzaballa, you started before Christmas a tour of the parishes that will last until July. Can you explain what you expect from these visits and how they unfold?
Last year, it seemed essential to me, first and foremost, to meet the priests of our diocese. I needed to know them personally but also to have a firsthand view of the diocese through their eyes and their parish staff that form it. This year, the idea for me is to meet the faithful. These meetings are quite short, but they allow me to have a first idea of what is happening in the parish.
These visits initially have an identical pattern where there is a time of celebration and various meetings with the local authorities, the pastoral council and the persons in charge of the activities. But each visit is organized primarily according to the reality of each parish.
Are these realities so different?
Yes, and that’s one of the things that strikes me. There are, first of all, significant differences, of course. Parish life cannot be the same in Nazareth, which is the largest parish in our diocese or Jenin. Then there is a geopolitical context that plays a significant role in the daily life of the parishioners: you do not live the same situation when you live in the Palestinian territories or Israel, and this can strongly influence life in the Church.
And it is also one of the peculiarities of this diocese which includes four territories and therefore at least as many different realities.
Some parishes are looked after by the Franciscans as in Nazareth. Does that change anything for you as an Archbishop?
Yes and no. Yes, because the priests are religious and therefore depend, in the case of the Franciscans, on the Custos and not directly on me. But otherwise, they are parishes that are part of the diocese and therefore depend on my jurisdiction.
At this stage of your visits, have you seen the strengths and perhaps the challenges for the parish communities already visited?
It is far too early for me to make an assessment, I prefer to wait to finish my visits to see how together we can move forward. What I can simply note is, first and foremost, the wealth of activities offered in our parishes: the communities are alive, and all provide pastoral activities that are quite well followed beyond the liturgical life.
On the other hand, I also realize that it is sometimes difficult to communicate well. It is necessary I think that we gain communication between us: between parishes but also between the Patriarchate and them.
These visits should give you a lot of ideas for the diocese. How can the Patriarchate accompany parishes in their difficulties?
Yes, these visits are of course exciting, but they also reveal to me my very great limits. I have to accept being unable to provide solutions to all situations, and it is not so simple for me. Fortunately, we can try to offer some answers to specific concerns, and I think we will do it for this question of communication, for which to me seems possible to put tools in place.
Interviewed by Cécile Klos