November 29th, 2011 @ 18:49 |


On 1-4 December the Most Reverend Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa ofm, Custos of the Holy Land, will be paying an official visit to Malta on the invitation of Fr. Anthony Chircop ofm, Commissary of the Holy Land. This is the first time that Fr. Pierbattista will visit Malta as Custos. He has been on a short visit in 2003 during the Congress of the Italian Conference of Commissaries of the Holy Land, which was held in Malta.

Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa was appointed Custos of the Holy Land for the first time in May of 2004, for a period of six years, and reconfirmed by the Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor in May of 2010 for another three-year term. 

Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa OFM

Born on April 21, 1965, in Cologno al Serio in the diocese and province of Bergamo, he began formation with the friars of the province of Emilia Romagna, to which he still juridically belongs. He was ordained a priest on September 15, 1990, and entered into effective service of the Custody of the Holy Land in 1999. Upon completion of philosophical and theological studies, he received a bachelor’s degree in theology on June 19, 1990, from the Pontifical University Antonianum in Rome. He completed his studies of specialization at the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum in Jerusalem, obtaining his license in biblical theology on June 21, 1993, and afterward received his master’s degree from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He was a professor of Modern Hebrew at the Franciscan Faculty of Biblical and Archaeological Sciences in Jerusalem, and has done pastoral work with the Hebrew-speaking faithful for the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

The name “Custos of the Holy Land” refers to the superior (Minister Provincial) of the Franciscan Friars of the Holy Land Mission. The Latin term “Custos” (Custodian) indicates his role as the guardian of the Holy Places in the name of the Catholic Church. This is not an honorific title, but indicates an important duty that was entrusted to the Franciscan Friars of the Holy Land on 21 November 1342, when Pope Clement VI, in the Apostolic Constitution “Gratias agimus” declared the Franciscans as the guardians (custodians) of the Holy Places in the name of the Catholic Church. The Father Guardian of the friary of Mount Zion (Cenacle), where the Franciscans settled in 1335, became known as the Custos of the Holy Land. To this very day the Custos carries the title of Guardian of Mount Zion, in memory of the first friary of the Franciscans in the Holy Land. In 1551 the Ottoman Turks expelled the Franciscans from the Cenacle, and from that time the Custos transferred his headquarters to the friary of Saint Saviour in Jerusalem, where he resides. 

The role of the Custos of the Holy Land includes the protection of the Holy Places. Ecclesiastical law considers him as the Ordinary of the Holy Places. The Custos is also in charge of governing the Custody of the Holy Land, in which 290 Franciscans live in 50 shrines, churches, parishes, schools and friaries spread out over large parts of the Middle East (Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Cyprus, Rhodes) as well as Rome, Naples, Milan, Madrid, Washington and Buenos Aires. The Custos often visits the friars in the territories and houses of the Custody and is the official representative of the Custody in front of civil authorities, particularly in front of the governments of the State of Israel and of the Palestinian Authority. He also keeps a direct relationship with the Pope and the Congregation of Oriental Churches in order to coordinate the work of helping the Holy Land Mission. He also has an important role in the ecumenical dialogue with the Eastern Churches present in the Holy Places where the rules of the Status quo are applied (with the Greek and Orthodox Patriarchates in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and in the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem). He is also a member of the Assembly of Ordinaries (Bishops) of the Holy Land, and works in close collaboration with the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem. As Minister Provincial of the Franciscans in the Holy Land, he maintains close ties with the General Curia of the Order of Franciscan Friars Minor in Rome and with the person of the Minister General of the Order, Fr. José Rodríguez Carballo ofm. 


Thursday 1st December 2011

13.20 Arrival at the airport from Rome. Fr Pizzaballa will be staying at the Franciscan Friary in Valletta.
Visit to the Commissariat of the Holy Land. 

16:30 Courtesy visit to H.E. Mons Paul Cremona OP, Archbishop of Malta, at his private residence in Attard. 

19:15 Public lecture at the University of Malta entitled: “Franciscans in the Holy Land between past glories and future challenges in a multi-cultural Society”, Lecture Theatre 1 (LT1). 

Friday 2nd December 2011 

10:00 Courtesy visit to H.E. Mons. Tommaso Caputo, Apostolic Nunzio to Malta, at the Nuntiature in Rabat. 

11:30 Courtesy visit to H.E. Dr. George Abela, President of the Republic, at San Anton Palace.
Lunch with the Valletta Fraternity. 

18:30 Meeting with the Rev. Fr. Provincial and the Franciscan brotherhood at the Franciscan Friary in Valletta. 

Saturday 3rd December 2011 

Early morning departure for Gozo. 

09:00 Courtesy visit to H.E. Mons. Mario Grech, Bishop of Gozo, at the Diocesan Curia.
Lunch with the Franciscan Fraternity in Gozo. 

Return to Malta in the afternoon. 

17:15 Mass at St. Francis’ Church, Valletta with pilgrims who visited the Holy Land followed by the official opening of the exhibition organized by the Għaqda Ħbieb tal-Presepju. 

20:30 Fund raising dinner in aid of the Custody of the Holy Land at Ir-Razzett l-Antik in Qormi. 

Sunday 4th December 2011 

Visit to the Poor Clares Monastery in Saint Julians. 

14:30 Departure to the airport for the flight back to Rome and Tel Aviv.