The Holy Father on Thursday, November 8, received in separate audiences Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, Apostolic Nuncio in Israel and Cyprus and Apostolic Delegate in Jerusalem and Palestine and his predecessor, Archbishop Antonio Franco, Apostolic Nuncio, and also Archbishop Michael Louis Fitzgerald, Apostolic Nuncio in Egypt. These meetings confirm the attention of Pope Benedict and his diplomacy to the Middle East. It gave him the chance to speak again of the legacy of Archbishop Franco, before Archbishop Lazzarotto arrives in the Holy Land on November 22.
Archbishop Lazzarotto, a native of Campania (Italy) will take over as Apostolic Nuncio in Israel and Cyprus and Apostolic Delegate in Jerusalem and Palestine from Archbishop Antonio Franco, who served from January 2006 to August 2012 and has reached the age limit (75 years).
First mission: Since coming into office, six years ago, Archbishop Franco’s most important mandate was to advance the negotiations between the State of Israel and the Holy See (a task that continues to play for the time being). To this end, a bilateral commission was appointed in 1993. Bishop Marcuzzo, Patriarchal Vicar for Israel remembers Archbishop Franco, as a man “who has worked with a lot of love and a practical, well-established method, knowing how to make use of experts at both local and international levels.” During his tenure, these traits were also reflected in negotiations with the Palestinian authorities, resulting in the signing of an agreement in principle.
Second mission: Archbishop Franco prepared, oversaw and ensured that Pope Benedict’s trip to the Holy Land on May 8-15, 2009 went smoothly.
Third mission: Another great theme that preoccupied the Apostolic Nuncio was the inaccurate inscription on plaques attributed to Pius XII at the Yad Vashem (Holocaust Memorial). Archbishop Franco requested for the revision of the text, which was later modified to conform more to the historical truth of what the Pope of the time had said and done. Although there is still much to be done in this regard, Archbishop Franco was able to deal with this sensitive issue with a lot of confidence, patience and diplomacy.
Relations between local Churches
Fourth mission: On the level of everyday life, he fostered relationships between the local Churches. He made a strong commitment to growth at the level of ecclesial communion of the Catholic Church. This is a very current issue in which he gave proof of his pastoral touch and sense of caring to consult the Churches and their pastors, whom he knew how to empower before making good decisions.
As for his character, Bishop Marcuzzo remembers him as “a diplomat who joined diplomatic style with a very pronounced personal and pastoral style, which aroused our wonder and gratitude for his way of working (…) He was a very good-hearted man who was able to use this goodness with great lucidity and patience. He leaves us not only with tangible traces of his action, but also a personal testimony (…) He was able to exercise his ministry as a priest and bishop with diplomatic means of his mandate and for this we are grateful must all give thanks. ”
Today Archbishop Franco at 75, lives in retirement in Italy, his native country. Needless to say, he continues to ponder what the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Fouad Twal, said at the time of his departure, “Do not forget Jerusalem and its inhabitants!”