The Latin Patriarchs of Jerusalem - Ten facts about Alberto Gori

By: Cécile Leca/ lpj.org - Published: May 23 Mon, 2022

The Latin Patriarchs of Jerusalem - Ten facts about Alberto Gori Available in the following languages:

JERUSALEM - Ever since its re-establishment in 1847, with the publication of the Apostolic Letter Nulla Celebrior by the Supreme Pontiff Pius IX, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem has had ten different Patriarchs. From Giuseppe Valerga to the current Bishop of the diocese, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, without forgetting Filippo Camassei or Michel Sabbah, all have brought their personal touch to this particular Catholic Church that is the Latin Patriarchate. Today, lpj.org invites you to rediscover the history of the first Patriarchs by telling you ten little-known facts about each of them.

VI/ Mgr Alberto Gori - Patriarch from 1949 to 1970

Key dates :

  • February 9th, 1889: born in San Piero Agliana
  • September 26th, 1907: joined the Franciscans at the Stigmata of St. Francis
  • July 19th, 1914: ordained a priest in Florence
  • November 11th, 1949: appointed Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem
  • 1960: appointed member of the Central Commission
  • November 7th, 1962: participated in the foundation of the CELRA (Conference of Latin Bishops of the Arab Regions)
  • January 1964: welcomed Pope Paul VI on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land
  • November 25th, 1970: death and burial in Jerusalem, in the co-cathedral of the Latin Patriarchate (chapel of St. Joseph)

Facts:

  • He arrived in the Holy Land during the First World War

When the war broke out in 1914, Mgr Gori was twenty-five years old. He had been a priest for barely ten days. Two years later, as the conflict raged between the Triple Entente and the alliance of the Central Empires, he became a nurse and managed to be sent to Palestine, when an Italian detachment was dispatched there. Once in the Holy Land, since he was a Franciscan, he joined the Custody, becoming Custos in 1937. Years later, shortly after his appointment as Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, just after the creation of the State of Israel and the demographic changes that followed, he declared on this matter, not without humor: "As a Custos, I had no financial worries. As Patriarch, I never see the end of it!"

  • Before becoming Patriarch, he tried to create an ecumenical council to manage the Holy Places

Like Mgr Valerga before him, Mgr Gori took a close interest in the question of the Holy Places, particularly the status quo. In 1946, while still Custos, he proposed that a permanent council be formed, composed of Catholic, Armenian and Orthodox members, which would act as the sole administrator of the Holy Places, decide on the restorations to be carried out and deal with any internal conflicts. However, the political context of the time being particularly tense, priority was not given to the Holy Places and the council was never created

  • After his appointment as Patriarch, he received a gift from the Pope (among others)

On February 2nd, 1950, before Mgr Gori left for the Holy Land, Pope Pius XII offered him an "artistic gold pectoral cross" and his apostolic blessing. This was not the only gift the new Patriarch received; Cardinal Eugene Tisserant gave him a letter of goodwill as well as everything necessary to celebrate the pontifical ceremonies, while Cardinal Schuster offered him an artistic custode for the Holy Eucharist. He also received other gifts, including a gold ring, a silver crozier, a candlestick, and various other ornaments. For his appointment, a document of some 40 pages was published, tracing his journey through texts, telegrams and photos.

  • A snowstorm disrupted his arrival in Jerusalem

Having embarked in Naples on February 4th, 1950, on a ship named the Esperia, the recently appointed Patriarch Gori was to meet in Beirut with the auxiliary bishop Mgr Gélat, the Patriarchal Vicar Mgr Neemeh Semaan, the president of the Pontifical Mission as well as the director of the Catholic school union. But the weather decided otherwise. Blocked by snowy roads, most of them did not manage to reach Lebanon before the Patriarch. As for Mgr Gori, his ship having forced the pace to escape the storm, he disembarked in Beirut before the scheduled time, around 6:00 am, while the preparations to welcome him had not yet been completed. Fortunately, the weather was much better when he arrived in Jerusalem.

  • He made several major tours throughout his diocese

As soon as he was appointed Patriarch, Mgr Gori organized several pastoral visits in his diocese. He began with Transjordan; from April 15th to 31st, 1950, he traveled about 1,200 km and visited 18 missions. Then, on May 6th, he made an 18-day tour of Israel, visiting no less than 19 different hospices, basilicas, churches and religious communities. He ended with Palestine in June, beginning with Bethlehem and Beit Jala, and continuing with Ramallah, Taybeh, Jifna, Aboud... The visit ended on July 30rd: in all, this mission tour lasted four months. As for Cyprus, the Patriarch went there for the first time on May 18th, 1951, and remained there until the beginning of June.

  • The very first Marian year took place while he was Patriarch

On September 8th, 1953, to celebrate the centenary of the solemn proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady by Pope Pius IX, Pope Pius XII made 1954 a "Marian Year" dedicated to the Virgin Mary. For this occasion, Mgr Gori wrote a pastoral letter to explain this solemn proclamation and to publish his instructions for the celebrations. He also set up a permanent committee for the Marian Year, responsible for preparing the annual program. Marked by tributes to the Mother of Christ, conferences, school celebrations, special ceremonies, exhibitions, prayers and pilgrimages, this first Marian year ended on December 8th, 1954, with the feast of the Immaculate Conception. A second Marian year took place in 1987, under Pope John Paul II.

  • He participated in the Second Vatican Council

In 1960, Mgr Gori was appointed member of the Central Commission, with the aim of preparing the future Ecumenical Council. Until 1962, several sessions were held with the entire Commission. Naturally discreet, Mgr Gori did not intervene much and relied on his advisors to support him when necessary. During the Council, however, he took the floor on several occasions to give his point of view on various subjects. He expressed himself on the mention of non-Christian confessions, for which he asked that all of them be mentioned; on the freedom of choice of rite for an Oriental who wished to reconsecrate himself to the Catholic Church; on the mention of hell in a text dealing with the Last Judgment; on the suppression of superiors elected for life. Most of his interventions will be retained in the final communiqués of the Council.

  • He received Pope Paul VI in the Holy Land

After the closing of the third session of the Second Vatican Council, the Pope announced that he would be making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. A journalist immediately drew a picture of Mgr Gori announcing the news to his diocese from a public phone in a bar. Barely a month later, the Patriarch welcomed Paul VI at the Amman airport on January 4th, 1964. The ceremonies of presentation of the Holy Cross were somewhat disrupted by the crowds assembled at the Damascus Gate; there were so many people that the Pope did not manage to kiss the cross, which was even damaged during the ceremony. Mgr Gori then let the Holy Father go to the Holy Sepulchre, his old age no longer allowing him to follow the procession. The stay of Pope Paul VI was then punctuated by numerous visits to the Holy Places as well as in several key places of the diocese, such as the Co-cathedral of the Latin Patriarchate.

  • He participated in the creation of the CELRA (Conference of the Latin Bishops of the Arab Regions)

After the Second Vatican Council, a desire arose among the bishops of the Arab world to meet regularly. Mgr Gori invited them for the first time on November 7th, 1962: eighteen bishops responded to his invitation. In 1964, the CELRA was definitively founded, and the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem was appointed president of the conference. Until his death in 1970, Mgr Gori presided over 21 assemblies.

  • He was naturally discreet

Without pretension to oratory, endowed with a conservative and prudent character and a humble wisdom, Mgr Gori often showed, during the exercise of his functions, effacement and discretion, in front of his confreres as well as in front of his clergy and his faithful. With his experience of administrator, acquired in the Custody of the Holy Land, he reserved the material management of the diocese for himself, but often listened to the advice and suggestions of those around him for everything that concerned pastoral activities or doctrinal or theological debates, especially during the Second Vatican Council and the sessions of the General Commission. Although some sometimes reproached him for this character trait, which they found unworthy of a Patriarch, it was nevertheless very useful to Mgr Gori when he had to face the numerous political events that shook his diocese – avoiding any outbursts that could have harmed him or the diocese. His motto was "Pax et Bonum", which means "peace and good".

To be continued...