On Saturday, September 10, in a packed cathedral in Bergamo, Pierbattista walked up the aisle toward the altar before which he was ordained bishop. At his side was the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton.
An obvious bond seemed to unite the two men, who exchanged a few words.
The last time they were seen together was on June 6 on the occasion of the solemn entry of the Custos, Fr. Francesco, into Jerusalem. That entry also marked the end of the the term of the man who at the time was still referred to as Fr. Pierbattista.
The latter had left for Jerusalem the next day without knowing that he would come back through the big door as apostolic administrator and archbishop following a decision by the Holy Father that was released on June 24.
Last Saturday, surrounded by his parents, family members, and many of his friends, as well as a large delegation of the Custody of the Holy Land and the Latin Patriarchate, Fr. Pizzaballa was consecrated as bishop by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, the prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, accompanied by the bishop of the city, Fr. Francesco Beschi and Latin Patriarch Emeritus of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, along with about thirty other bishops from Italy and the Middle East.
Civil authorities from Bergamo and from the newly ordained bishop’s native town were also present, as well as the Palestinian ambassador to the Holy See, Issa Kassissiyeh. Israeli authorities apologized for not being present due to the Shabbat.
The celebration was solemn and filled with emotion and prayer, and the Custody had the opportunity to rejoice once again at seeing the Custos, Francesco Patton, participate in the ritual of consecration, when he carried the open Book of the Gospels over the new bishop while the Cardinal prayed over him.
After the celebration, Fr. Pizzaballa spoke and shared some personal memories. He thanked the many friars and had some friendly words for Custos Patton. To the surprise of some of the priests of the patriarchate, at which TV cameras were pointed, Fr. Pizzaballa also uttered a few words in fluent Arabic to “his” priests and “his” people.
The next day, once again many friars of the Custody attended the bishop’s first mass, which was celebrated in Cologno al Serio, the former Custos’ native village.