The Church of the Holy Land welcomes the new Custos, Friar Francesco Patton

Yesterday afternoon, the religious priest of Italian origin was sworn in as the new Custos of the Holy Sites. The ceremony took place in Jerusalem, in the Old City. With him there were more than 100 priests, monks and nuns, and a crowd of faithful. Today the entrance into the Holy Sepulchre. The celebrations will conclude on June 18 with the entrance into the Basilica of the Annunciation, in Nazareth.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - The Catholic Church of the Holy Land has welcomed the new Custos, the 52 year old Francesco Patton, who yesterday afternoon was sworn in as the new Custos of the Holy Sites. He replaces Father Pierbattista Piazzaballa who has held the post for the past 12 years. The ceremony took place in Jerusalem, in the Old City, in the heart of Christianity, where Jesus was crucified, died and rose again.

Together with Patton were among more than 100 priests, monks and nuns, along with a crowd of faithful who followed the procession from the Jaffa Gate to St. Saviour Church. For the local community it was a "very important day ", in a difficult context for the many challenges facing Christians in the region.

Today the Custos of the Holy Land plays a significant role for the Church in the Middle East. In addition to being head of the first mission of the Friars Minor, and responsible for many of the places of worship of the life of Jesus, he is one of the main interlocutors of the Catholic Church with other Christian communities.

In addition, he closely follows the socio-political events that characterize the areas where the mission of the Custody extends to - Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Cyprus and Rhodes, in Cairo with the convent of the Muski - and supervises social, educational and cultural projects that have been promoted throughout history.

Francesco Patton was born in Vigo Meano, in the Diocese of Trento, December 23, 1963, and belongs to the Province of St. Anthony of the Friars Minor, in Italy. Besides Italian, he speaks English and Spanish. His appointment came on 20 May.

Interviewed by AsiaNews within hours after the official announcement, he spoke of having accepted the decision "with some trepidation, because it is a delicate service", but at the same time with a great "confidence." "The role of [Custos] - he added - always means being a man of dialogue, a bridge builder". One of the biggest challenges of the Holy Land, he concluded, is to keep "dialogue" among faiths and cultures alive.

The entrance of the new Guardian continues today and in the coming days with a full calendar of events: this afternoon at 15.30, to the sound of bells, there will be the solemn entry into the Holy Sepulchre. Tomorrow's visit to the Upper Room, to the tune of "Veni Creator Spiritu". On June 9, the entrance to the basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem; two days later, on June 11, the solemn entrance to Jaffa. Finally, Sunday, June 18, the new Custos will enter the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth.