Father Francesco Patton is the new Custos of the Holy Land. After twelve years under the guidance of Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Franciscan Order has a new Superior.
The General Definitory of the Friars Minor, with the consent of the Holy See, on May 20, 2016, announced Friar Francesco Patton as the new Custos of the Holy Land, who succeeds Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, who has held the assignment for twelve years.
Father Francesco Patton was born in Vigo Meano, in the Diocese of Trento, on December 23 1963 and belongs to the Province of St. Anthony of the Friars Minor in Italy. He made his first religious profession in 1983 and took his solemn vows on October 4, 1986. He was ordained a priest on May 26 1989. He is also trained in Communication Sciences at the Salesian Pontifical University in Rome.
He held different duties within his province of origin and also within the Order, including the President of the Conference of Ministers Provincial of Italy and of Albania; he is also Member of the Presbyteral Council of the Archdiocese of Trento and he is Professor of Social Communication Science at the Theological Academy of Trento.
The figure and the role of the Custos is especially significant for the Church of the Holy Land and the Middle East. Besides being at the helm of the Custody, considered the first mission of the Order of Friars Minor, the Custos also forms part of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land, which brings together all the bishops and the Catholic Episcopal Vicars of the Latin and the Eastern rites.
In the Holy Land, the presence of the Franciscans is attested since the thirteenth century.
The Custos, on behalf of the Catholic Church, takes care of most of the places of the Incarnation of Jesus. He also has the duty to accommodate pilgrims and foreign tourists in the 55 shrines under his jurisdiction, turning their experience of the Holy Land in the ‘Fifth Gospel’ – in the words of Pope Paul VI.
He also takes care of the “living stones” of the Holy Land, the Catholic community in the area, and he is the interlocutor of the other Churches, whose relations are governed by the Status Quo, an active agreement since the 19th century.
The territory of the Custody extends into various countries: Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Cyprus and Rhodes, and Cairo in Egypt with the Muski Monastery.
In this manner, the Custody, together with their Superior, pays homage to the universal character of this land chosen by God.