Custos of the Holy Land
The head of ATS Pro Terra Sancta is de jure the Custos of the Holy Land. P. Pierbattista Pizzaballa OFM is the head of the Custody of the Holy Land, the Franciscan province in the Middle East. He is called a custos (“custodian”) because in 1342, the Pope entrusted the Franciscans of his province with the preservation of Christian holy sites in the Holy Land. The custos is appointed by the General Definitorium of the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor, and approved by the Holy Seat in accordance with the Pontifical Statues
The current Custos of the Holy Land is Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa OFM. He is one of the youngest heads of the Custody of the Holy Land in the history of the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor.
Pierbattista Pizzaballa was born in Cologno al Serio (Bergamo, Italy) on April 21, 1965. In Emilia-Romagna (Italy), he got to know the Franciscans of the Christ the King Province. After high school, he joined the noviciate in La Verna (Arezzo, Italy) in 1984 and made his Solemn Profession on October 14, 1989. In September 1990, he was named a priest.
Pierbattista Pizzaballa studied theologie at the Pontificio Ateneo Antonianum in Rome. In 1990, he came to the Holy Land. He completed his studies in theology in Jerusalem, receiving a degree, and a he completed a course of study in Biblical studies at the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum. P. Pizzaballa also learned modern Hebrew and took courses in Semitic languages at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem from 1995 to 1999.
Since 1998, P. Pierbattista Pizzaballa OFM has been a professor of Biblical Hebrew and Judaism at the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum and at the Studium Theologicum Jerosolymitanum. In 1995, together with P. Massimo Pazzini OFM, he published the Rite of Mass in Hebrew and also translated other liturgical texts into Hebrew for the Hebrew-speaking Catholic community.
P. Pizzaballa was the vicar of the Hebrew-speaking Catholic community and is now the episcopal vicar of the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem for Hebrew-speaking Catholics in Israel. In 2001, he became the head of the Convent of Saints Simeon and Anna in Jerusalem
In 2004, P. Pierbattista Pizzaballa OFM was elected as Custos of the Holy Land for a six-year term.
In the Custody of the Holy Land, P. Pierbattista Pizzaballa is also head of the commission for evangelization and member of the commission on Judaism and Islam.