The Latin Patriarchs of Jerusalem - Ten facts about Giacomo Beltritti

By: Cécile Leca/ lpj.org - Published: June 06 Mon, 2022

The Latin Patriarchs of Jerusalem - Ten facts about Giacomo Beltritti 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.

VII/ Mgr Giacomo Beltritti - Patriarch from 1970 to 1987

Key dates :

  • December 23rd, 1910: born in Peveragno (Piedmont)
  • October 11th, 1926: arrived in Jerusalem with Maurizio Merlo (+25.5.1946)
  • May 1927: returned from the seminary to Jerusalem
  • April 15th, 1933: ordination to the priesthood by Mgr. Barlassina, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, assisted by Frs. Mirande and Wadoups.
  • March 2nd, 1934: appointed director of Rafat
  • 1935: appointed parish priest of Ramallah
  • July 1943: appointed curate to Fr. Bonaventura Habash in Beit Jala
  • January 1947: appointed parish priest of Beit Jala
  • February 18th, 1950: appointed chancellor by Bishop Testa, confirmed in his functions by Bishop Gori
  • March 17th, 1951 : appointed canon of the Holy Sepulchre
  • September 25th, 1965 : promoted bishop of Cana
  • October 10th, 1965: consecrated with Bishop Sim'an at the Holy Sepulchre by Bishop Gori
  • November 25th, 1970: succeeded Bishop Gori, who had died
  • December 13th, 1970: enthroned Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem at the Holy Sepulchre
  • January 2nd, 1971: receives the pallium from Paul VI in Rome (accompanied by Fr. Médebielle)
  • December 23rd, 1985: presents his resignation (75 years old)
  • December 28th, 1987: ceases his office upon the nomination of Bishop Sabbah as Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem
  • January 1st, 1988: presided over the reopening of the restored co-cathedral
  • January 14th, 1988: passing of the Crosier and the Stole to his successor enthroned at the Holy Sepulchre.
  • January 17th, 1988: retired to Deir Rafat, accompanied by the Patriarch, the Curia, Bishop Curis (Delegate), and Custos Cechitelli. Returns occasionally to Jerusalem.
  • November 1st, 1992: died of a heart attack

Facts

  • He studied at the seminary in Jerusalem

You may remember that after the First World War, the seminary of the Latin Patriarchate had to be completely renovated and restored in order to be able to welcome new seminarians. The Patriarch of the time, Bishop Barlassina, took on the task with fervor, and as soon as the work was completed, he hurried to bring in seminarians from his native Turin. The future Archbishop Beltritti, who at that time was studying with the Tommasini family (precisely where Archbishop Barlassina himself had studied) was one of those who heard the Patriarch's call. Thus, on October 11, 1926, he arrived in Beit Jala, setting foot in the Holy Land at only sixteen years of age.

  • He was interned for three years during the Second World War

In 1939, Mgr Beltritti was working on a project to build a Catholic university college. The war put an end to all his initiatives; a year after it started, he was arrested. He spent three years in prison, first in Deir Rafat, then in Mouqeibleh, and finally in the Convent of the Flagellation, in Jerusalem. He took advantage of this time to deepen his cultural and spiritual education, and taught theology to other seminarians imprisoned with him.

  • He was a very active chancellor

Appointed Chancellor of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem in 1949, Mgr Beltritti set up, from the very beginning of his mandate, numerous projects aimed at restructuring the Patriarchate. He reorganized the Archives, reassembled the printing press within the Patriarchate to replace the one in Rafat (this printing press was later relocated to Beit Jala), re-launched the printing of the Diocesan Bulletin and created a monthly publication in Arabic, "Christian Life", which was distributed outside the diocese until the war in 1967. He also advocated the use of the "active method" (which he summarized in three words: action, interest, and freedom) to teach catechism.

  • He refused his appointment as coadjutor of the Patriarch

In 1965, Mgr Beltritti learned that he had been appointed coadjutor of the Patriarch by nuns who had heard the news on the radio. He immediately wrote a telegram to His Beatitude Mgr Gori, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, to refuse the promotion. But Mgr Gori, convinced that he would make an excellent Patriarch, left him no choice. Thus, on October 20th, 1965, Mgr Beltritti’s episcopal ordination was celebrated at the Holy Sepulchre.

  • He ordered the restoration of the Co-cathedral of the Latin Patriarchate

With the help of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, Mgr Beltritti was able to have the Co-Cathedral of the Latin Patriarchate, erected by Patriarch Valerga, the first Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, completely restored. The work lasted two years, during which no services were held. Finally, on January 1st, 1988, Mgr Beltritti was able to officially reopen the Co-Cathedral and inaugurate it in the presence of Mgr Michel Sabbath.

  • He had very good relations with his Greek Orthodox counterpart

At the time of Mgr Beltritti, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch was called Benediktos I and had been appointed in 1957. According to the reports of their mutual visits, Mgr Beltritti showed great respect for this older and more experienced Patriarch, sharing with him a very cordial, even friendly relationship. The Bulletin of the Latin Major Seminary wrote in 1972 that "the joint friendliness of Patriarchs Benediktos I and Beltritti completely cleared the atmosphere. For a long time now, Patriarch Beltritti has won over Patriarch Benediktos by his attentions and the much-appreciated deference of a young Patriarch to his elder. He has fulfilled him even today by proclaiming before all, when he welcomed him, "this is our Patriarch." His Holiness Benediktos returned it wholeheartedly.” 

  • He had a passion for liturgy

Years before the creation of an official office, Mgr Beltritti showed a special interest in liturgy. He participated in all the meetings of the Liturgy Commission of the diocese, and actively contributed to the publication of several liturgical works, some of which were used in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Sudan, Egypt and even North Africa. He also donated all the gifts he received on his golden jubilee as a priest to help finance the printing of the great Daily Mass Lectionary.

  • He traveled far and wide

In order to maintain his relations with the Lieutenancies of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, Mgr Beltritti often traveled outside his diocese, especially in Europe. He visited Canada in 1974, Germany in 1977 and 1980, the United States and Mexico in 1978, France in 1980, and Switzerland and Austria in 1982.

  • He was the first Patriarch not to die in office

Mgr Beltritti was the first to resign on December 23rd, 1985, for his birthday (he however remained in charge of the diocese until the appointment of his replacement, Mgr Michel Sabbath). Afterward, discharged from his patriarchal functions, he retired to Deir Rafat.

  • After 1985, he became a teacher

In Deir Rafat, the former Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, who had always shown a keen interest in catechesis and the seminary, which he actively supported during his time as Patriarch, moved to the monastery of Our Lady of Palestine to teach catechism and to give religious courses at the internal school of Deir Rafat. In 1934, he was the director of the school. He taught there until his death, which occurred on November 1st, 1992 during a visit to Jerusalem.