JERUSALEM – On Friday, December 4, 2020, His Beatitude Pierbattista Pizzaballa officially and solemnly entered the Cathedral of the Holy Sepulchre and took possession of his See as Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem. As has been with other major religious ceremonies throughout the year of 2020, the entrance of the patriarch into his cathedral was limited to a very few number of participants and officials due to what could become a third wave of COVID-19 to hit the country.
The ceremony started just like any other patriarchal entrances; at the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. In procession, the patriarch was accompanied by the clergy and laypeople through the usual route to the Holy Sepulchre. They marched down the streets of the Old City of Jerusalem and the patriarch blessed the people on sides of the way.
Once they arrived at the courtyard of the Holy Sepulchre, His Beatitude was welcomed by the three representatives and custodians of the cathedral; the Franciscans, the Greek Orthodox and the Armenian Churches, as well as the keyholder of the door of the Holy Sepulchre. He then entered through the door of the cathedral and proceeded to kiss the Stone of Anointing and to bless the crowd with Holy Water. Near the stone, he was welcomed by Fr. Francesco Patton, Custos of the Holy Land. Just twelve years ago, Patriarch Pizzaballa was the one who was standing there as Custos, welcoming Patriarch Fouad Twal during his solemn entrance.
Pivotality of the Crucified and Risen Lord
In his welcoming speech, Fr. Francesco Patton underscored the pivotality of the Crucified and Risen Lord to demolish the wall of enmity between peoples of the Holy Land, of the different religions and among Christians themselves. He also spoke of the hope that the new patriarch needs to draw from the Holy Sepulchre amidst the troubles of time.
He did not forget to mention the readiness of the Custody with its “internationality” to collaborate with him to serve the local Church so that they can be a “sign of the new humanity reconciled in the Blood of Christ and in His death and Resurrection.”
After the welcoming of the Custos, the Patriarch went and prayed intimately inside the Tomb of Jesus while the crowd chanted the Te Deum. After the reading of the Gospel by the Custos, the Papal Bull of the appointment of His Beatitude as Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem was read in Latin and Arabic by Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli and Fr. Ibrahim Shomali respectively. Bishop Boulos Marcuzzo then warmly welcomed His Beatitude on behalf of the College of Consultors and the entire family of the Latin Patriarchate, greeting him with his famous Mabruks (congratulations) that he became known for in Jerusalem. He finally handed the pastoral staff to the new shepherd of the Jerusalem Diocese.
The Holy Sepulchre and man’s limitations
It is not without a purpose that the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre is chosen for the entrances of the new patriarchs. “There is no beginning, no ecclesial initiative, no project that can exist outside of the Easter experience,” said Patriarch Pizzaballa. The Holy Sepulchre as the Custos said in his welcome speech is “the place where is death but also the maturation of faith”.
Patriarch Pizzaballa is not new to the entrances of the Holy Sepulchre. Four years ago, he returned to the cathedral to start a new service to the Church of God as Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate. “Those were intense and difficult years, but also rich with wonderful experiences,” said His Beatitude.
Today, Patriarch Pizzaballa begins a new ecclesial journey in the Church of Jerusalem thanking God’s faithfulness in him in the past years. Nevertheless, he does not forget to show a glimpse of his vulnerability to remind us of his own fears and limitations. In his entrance speech, he said “I cannot but experience feelings of fear in the face of a mission that exceeds my capacities. But I accept this new obedience, which I wish to fulfil with joy. It is certainly a cross, but a cross that bears fruit of salvation each time it is embraced in joy.”
One can read almost the same in his first message to the diocese in 2016, at the start of his new mission when Pope Francis appointed him as an Apostolic Administrator, in which he said: “I do not hide that I was surprised by this request, knowing my personal and objective limitations. You can therefore imagine my trepidation and my concern for the task that has been entrusted to me.” And from that time, the theme of man’s limitations kept recurring in his weekly meditations, homilies and speeches and the essentiality of obedience to God. In one part he points out that even though he doesn’t have the “gift of tongues”, he assures the faithful of his sincere desire to reach the hearts of all.
At the end of the ceremony, the new patriarch gave his blessing then returned to the Co-Cathedral of the Patriarchate for a short ceremony where he greeted the faithful, priests of the Latin Patriarchate, Parish Priests, and representatives of Religious Men and Women communities, before saying a prayer for Our Lady Palestine.