New Custos of the Holy Land’s challenge is to maintain dialogue
Br Francesco Patton, of the Diocese of Trento, replaces Fr Pierbattista Pizzaballa, grateful for the latter’s 12 years of outstanding service. The new Custos welcomed the appointment "with trepidation” and “confidence." He plans to remain "a man of dialogue" and take care "of the friars and their life".
Trento (AsiaNews) – The General Definitory of the Friars Minor, with the consent of the Holy See, elected Fr Francesco Patton as the new Custos (Custodian) of the Holy Land for the next six years. He succeeds Fr Pierbattista PIZZABALLA, 51, who held the position for the past 12 years.
Speaking to AsiaNews, the new Custos said that he accepted the appointment "with some trepidation, because of it is a delicate service". At the same time, he will undertake his new duties with great "confidence” because ultimately "our life requires trust," which is intrinsic "to our vow of obedience."
Fr Patton is an outsider to the Custody of the Holy Land, something that had not happened in a while.
Fr Pizzaballa, he said, “has left a legacy of trust towards the Franciscans,” Fr Patton told AsiaNews. For this reason, “we shall never stop thanking him for his service.” On a practical level, "I shall meet him to understand what must be pursued and what guidelines to follow.”
Although it is premature to talk about future challenges and goals, the new Custos plans “to focus on the friars and their life” as well as the problems “the friars will highlight for me”.
“My role entails being a man of dialogue, a builder of bridges” between faiths and culture, he said, which is one of the greatest challenges in the Holy Land.
Br Francesco Patton was born in Vigo Meano, in the Diocese of Trento, on 23 December 1963. He belongs to the Franciscan Province of St. Anthony in Italy. He is fluent in English and Spanish, besides his native Italian.
He made his first religious profession on 7 September 1983 and his solemn profession on 4 October 1986, and was ordained to the ministerial priesthood on 26 May 1989. In 1993 he earned a Licentiate in Communication Sciences at the Pontifical Salesian University in Rome.
He served in various capacities in his province and also within the Order. He was twice Secretary General of the General Chapters in 2003 and 2009, Visitator General in 2003, Minister Provincial of St. Vigilium (Trent, Italy) from 2008 to 2016, and President of the Conference of Provincial Ministers of Italy and Albania (COMPI).
He also served outside of the Order. He was a member of the Diocesan Presbyteral Council and secretary of the Diocesan Pastoral Council of the archdiocese of Trent, taught social communications at the Studio Teologico Accademico Tridentino, collaborated with the diocesan weekly, the diocesan radio and Telepace Trento, and has been a member of the Trentino-South Tyrol Journalists Association as a publicist since 1991.
At present, the Custos of the Holy Land plays a major role in the Church in the Middle East. Not only is he the head of the first mission of the Friars Minor in charge of many of the places of worship related to the life of Jesus, but he is one of the main representatives of the Catholic Church vis-à-vis other Christian communities.
He also closely monitors the socio-political evolution of the area covered by the Custody’s mission (Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Cyprus and Rhodes, and Cairo’s Muski convent), and supervises long-standing social, educational, and cultural activities.
The Custos is also tasked with welcoming foreign pilgrims and tourists to all 55 shrines within the Custody’s jurisdiction. (DS)