30 September 2023: in Jerusalem it is 11:55 a.m. when the Patriarch of the Latins Pierbattista Pizzaballa kneels before the Supreme Pontiff to receive the cardinal’s insignia. In St Peter’s Square, in front of a huge crowd of faithful and pilgrims, the Ordinary Consistory presided over by Pope Francis is taking place, during which twenty-one cardinals have been created.
Italian, born in the province of Bergamo, Pizzaballa entered the service of the Custody of the Holy Land in 1999, holding the position of Custos from 2004 to 2016. In 2020 he became the tenth Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, after its restoration in 1847 and today he is the first “resident” Patriarch to receive the cardinal’s purple.
In addition to the imposition of the biretta and giving him the ring, the Supreme Pontiff gave Cardinal Pizzaballa the Titulus of St Onofrio. With this, the cardinal become the titular of a church in the diocese of the Bishop of Rome and becomes to all effects an “elector”, one who takes part in the election of a new Pope in the Conclave.
Cardinals’ College like a symphonic orchestra
During the celebration, Pope Francis made a long speech to the cardinals, in which he stressed the resemblance of the Cardinals’ College to a symphonic orchestra, which represents the symphonicity and the synodality of the Church. “I also say the“synodality”, not only because we are on the eve of the first Assembly of the Synod which has this very theme, but because it seems to me that the metaphor of the orchestra can well illuminate the synodal nature of the Church.A symphony lives on the skilful composition of the timbres of the different instruments: each makes its contribution, at times on its own, at times together with someone else, at times with the whole ensemble. Diversity is necessary and it is essential.”
The convocation of the 9th Consistory (from the Latin consistorium, “solemn gathering of the cardinals of the Catholic Church in Rome”) had been announced by the Pope unexpectedly – also for those concerned – on 9 July 2023, at the end of the prayer of the Angelus.
Together with the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, two other Italians were created cardinals: monsignor Claudio Gugerotti, prefect of the Dicastery for the Oriental Churches, andmonsignor Agostino Marchetto, secretary emeritus of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People.
Immediately after the celebration, as is usual following every consistory, Cardinal Pizzaballa was able to receive the embrace of faithful, religious and friends in what are known as visits of warmth – in which the Custos of the Holy Land fr. Francesco Patton was also present with fr. Ibrahim Faltas and fr. Massimo Fusarelli, OFM Minister General.
Card. Pizzaballa will celebrate his first mass as a cardinal in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, where there is the famous icon of theVergine Salus populi romani, in front of which the Pope usually goes to pray, entrusting to her the success of his apostolic journeys.
“We look at everything from Christ”
On 1 October 2023 His Beatitude Eminence Pizzaballa presided over his first Mass as Cardinal in the Basilica of St. Maria Maggiore in Rome. Among the concelebrants were the Custos of the Holy Land, fr. Francesco Patton and fr. Ibrahim Faltas.
The Cardinal, questioning the meaning of this “new call,” wanted to place the accent on Peter’s gaze. “Peter’s gaze is above all an expert gaze of his own weakness, therefore, of God’s mercy [...] a gaze that was able to discover love inside failure, victory within apparent defeat, trust within contradictions and denial. To be cardinal then, I interpret as an invitationto put ourselves from this point of view, of one who knows how to look at the weakness of our brothers and sisters with intelligent and sincere love.”
During his reflection, the new cardinal had a thought for Jerusalem and the Holy Land: “That land, splendid and dramatic, is a crossroads of cultures, sensitivities, religions, people and in that context, we Christians are very few and, according to merely human calculations, irrelevant. The temptation to look at so much diversity with the gaze of Peter before he met Christ’s gaze, that is, with a gaze that is fearful and perhaps, for that very reason, aggressive and violent, is strong. But we Christians are different, we must be different, because we are called to choose every day to be disciples of Christ, and from today even more so, to the very end, usque ad sanguinis effusionem” (here the Homily).
At the end of the celebration, the Cardinal descended under the papal altar of the basilica to venerate the precious oval crystal reliquary surmounted by a gold child: the wood from the manger of Jesus' birth, or 'the Holy Cradle', is kept here.
The Cardinal then met and greeted the people in the atrium of the Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore, where numerous faithful gathered. And before his return to Jerusalem, he will be in St Peter’s Square again on Wednesday 4 October 2023, St Francis’s day, for the Eucharistic Celebration presided over by the Holy Father with the new cardinals.