altFather Pierbattista Pizzaballa has been re-elected Custos of the Holy Land for another three years. The Italian friar was elected Custos for the first time in May 2004 and re-elected in 2010 for three years.

His first important engagement during his third term will be the Holy Land Custody Chapter, due to take place 1-15 July in Jerusalem. General Visitor Fr. Renato Beretta OFM, appointed in July 2012 by the Minister General of the Order, will preside over the meeting.

The Franciscans of the Custody of the Holy Land have had a presence in the Middle East for eight centuries and throughout this time have ensured, on behalf of the Catholic Church, care of the main holy sites in the places where Jesus lived his earthly life.

The Friars Minor of the Custody number around 300 and are of various nationalities. They welcome pilgrims, officiate in the holy places, assist the local Christian community, are engaged in the study of the Scriptures and in archaeological research, and dialogue with people of other religions and cultures.

Fr. Pizzaballa was born in Cologno al Serio, in the diocese and province of Bergamo (Italy), April 21, 1965 and has been a priest since September 15, 1990.

He became a Franciscan on September 5, 1984, becoming part of the Province of Christ the King, of the Friars Minor of Emilia Romagna. On 14 October 1989 he made his solemn profession. After the first cycle of philosophical and theological studies, he obtained his Bachelor of Theology June 19, 1990 at the Pontifical Antonianum University of Rome. He completed his postgraduate studies at the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum of Jerusalem, obtaining a degree in Biblical Theology June 21, 1993. He subsequently received his Master’s degree at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

He was assigned to the Custody of the Holy Land in July 1997. He was Professor of Biblical Hebrew at the Franciscan Faculty of Biblical Sciences and Archaeology in Jerusalem, and in the context of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, worked in the pastoral care of Hebrew-speaking Catholics.

From May 2001 to May 2004 he was superior at the convent of Sts. Simeon and Anna in Jerusalem, home to a community of Hebrew-speaking Catholics. From 2005 to 2008 he was also Patriarchal Vicar (of the Patriarch Mgr. Michel Sabbah) for Hebrew-speaking Catholics.

On 18 March 2008 Pope Benedict XVI appointed Fr. Pizzaballa as a consultant for five years to the Commission for Relations with Judaism at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

In his capacity as Custos, Fr. Pizzaballa welcomed Pope Benedict XVI during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land (8-15 May 2009) and his visit to Cyprus in June 2010.

A few days ago, Fr. Pizzaballa took part in the election of Fr. Michael Anthony Perry as Minister General of the Friars Minor. From May 22nd he replaces Fr. José Rodríguez Carballo whom Pope Francis appointed to be Secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

Michael Perry was born in Indianapolis (in the U.S.) in 1954. He made his solemn profession in the Order of Friars Minor in 1981 and was ordained a priest in 1984. Before being elected vicar general and procurator of the Order, he was, inter alia, Minister Provincial of the Province of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the U.S.

He has worked for Catholic Relief Services where he had concrete experience of interreligious collaboration with Muslim and Jewish humanitarian organizations in a time of natural disasters such as the tsunami that struck Southeast Asia in 2004. Fr. Perry was also a missionary in the Democratic Republic of Congo for 10 years.