Fr Pierbattista Pizzaballa will focus on promoting dialogue between Christians

The new apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate says his main task will be to promote dialogue among Christians in the Holy Land — and between Christians and other religious groups.

Fr Pierbattista Pizzaballa took office on Wednesday as the temporary chief clergyman to the local Catholic population.

The Italian-born Fr Pizzaballa, a Franciscan priest, replaces Fr Fouad Twal, who reached the mandatory retirement age of 75. The patriarch has traditionally been a native Arabic speaker, helping serve the local population. Fr Pizzaballa, a 51-year-old Italian, says there’s been no change in policy and he’d hold the position until a “proper and better candidate” was selected.

For the past 12 years, Fr Pizzaballa has led the body responsible for protecting Church holy sites in the Middle East.