Message to the Diocese

June 24, 2016

Beloved Brothers and Sisters,

The Lord give you peace!

I have been asked to “return to Jerusalem” (cf. Lk 24), like the Apostles after “the events in Jerusalem” and the encounter with the Risen One.  Through the Pope, the Lord has asked me to return to the Holy City after my experience as Custos of the Holy Land.

I do not hide that I was surprised by this request, knowing my personal and objective limitations.  You can therefore imagine my trepidation and my concern for the task that has been entrusted to me.  I can also understand your many questions and perhaps even some misgivings.

However, I know that it is He who calls and sends, and I trust in Him.  “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Cor 12:9).

I return to Jerusalem, primarily with the desire to serve the local clergy and the whole community, asking all of you for understanding, friendship and collaboration.

The Church of Jerusalem on the Feast of St. John the Baptist echoes, on the lips and from the heart the Canticle of Zechariah, the powerful salvation born of the house of David sent before the Lord to prepare His way, here where it all began.

Like John the Baptist, we must first look at Him and look to Him to recognize ourselves as a Church.  Only then can we become a balm for the many wounds of this Land and the people who live here.

Prepare the way, nothing else is asked of us, open up paths, walkways and boulevards. Be free from all that hinders our encounter with Him and with one another.  I know I am not alone but with those who preceded me: the Patriarchs Michel Sabbah and Fouad Twal, the emeritus and auxiliary Bishops, the patriarchal vicars, abbots and major superiors, priests, permanent deacons, men and women religious, the new movement communities, the holy people of God, with whom I want to and I will share this task that has been entrusted to me.  A special prayer and special thoughts for the seminarians of the Diocese, whom I hope to meet soon.  I also assure you in the spirit of the Synod my full cooperation with the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land (ACOHL) and the Conference of the Latin Bishops of the Arab Regions (CELRA).

A special thought goes to our young people. They are the future of our Church and we look to them with hope and confidence.  I am thinking in particular of those involved in various initiatives of the Patriarchate, in schools, parishes and universities.  These are important places for encounter and sharing that deserve our full attention.  These are invaluable resources that help young people to build the dream of their future here, and also the structures necessary for all of us, with clarity, transparency and solidarity, for which we are committed to support.

Salvation has the “form” of an encounter.  Accepting the invitation of Pope Francis, I would like to share from Jerusalem, from this holy and wounded city for us and for the whole Church:  the ability to meet and greet one another, build roads and bridges, and not walls between us and the Lord, between Bishops and Priests, Priests and Laity, between us and the other Churches, between us and our Jewish and Muslim brothers and friends, between us and the poor, between ourselves and those in need of mercy and hope. Only in this way can we fully respond to the special universal vocation of the Church of Jerusalem, the Church of the Holy Places.

“Beginning from Jerusalem” (Lk 24:47),  I will be with you and for you, as the one who opens paths, who promotes the culture of encounter and shares with each and every one the challenge and enthusiasm of following Jesus for the good of the Church and the world.

I am confident that I can count on your support, with the prayers from the contemplative oases of the Diocese and of the entire people of God, that I particularly need.  May the Lord accompany us in this our new journey together.

+ Pierbattista

Source: Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem