JERUSALEM – On Tuesday, November 1, 2016, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate, welcomed Italian President Sergio Mattarella at the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
The visit of the president took place as part of an official trip to Israel and Palestine, which started on Sunday, October 31, 2016.
The Italian President Sergio Mattarella and his delegation were received by His Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Bishop William Shomali, Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, Bishop Kamal Bathish and a number of priests from the Patriarchate.
In a brief statement, Archbishop Pizzaballa spoke on behalf of the Latin Patriarchate and the Church of the Holy Land, expressing solidarity with the Italian people in the aftermath of the earthquakes that hit Italy in the past months, and the most recent, just a few days ago.
He also referred to several initiatives of collaboration that Italy has made available in the fields of education, training and development: “We express our gratitude for all that Italy has done, and continues to offer and do for the world, and especially for the Holy Land (…). We highlight, among others, the Italian expertise and excellence at work in the restoration of the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem, which is being brought back to its ancient splendor by Italian experts. ”
For his part, President Mattarella mentioned the reasons for his visit to Jerusalem and the Latin Patriarchate: “Jerusalem is a city affectionately looked upon by much of the world and highly-regarded by the three monotheistic religions” said the President. “Nowadays, we need interreligious dialogue, especially with the terrorism that is perpetrated by Islamic fundamentalists. As Pope Francis and other religious authorities have said, “dialogue between religions, knowledge and understanding of one another, and mutual trust and respect are decisive elements, not only for the faithful but for the international community as well.”
The Italian President commended the work being carried out by the Christian community with the Patriarchate to help and support the most vulnerable, to promote dialogue and work together to achieve peace. He also spoke about Italy’s commitment towards improving the lives of the locals in the areas of health, education and culture, and the contribution to restore the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
After a visit to the Holy Sepulchre, he described the shared management and cooperation in the restoration of the Tomb of Christ by the three Christian Churches, seeing this as “a positive sign and a step forward and progress in dialogue.”
As part of his trip to the Holy Land, he met with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas after a visit to the Basilica of the Nativity and The “Ephpheta Paul VI” Institute in Bethlehem. He also visited Hisham Palace in Jericho where he inaugurated a mosaic school.