The Latin Patriarchal Diocese of Jerusalem, in its present form, was established in 1099 with the Crusaders. According to the Crusaders thesis, there was no residing Patriarch by the time of their entrance to Jerusalem; therefore they installed a Latin Patriarch to govern the Church. When Saladin took over Jerusalem in 1187, the Latin Patriarch had to reside temporarily in Acre until 1291.
After that period the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem remained a titular residing in Europe. Because of these conditions, Pope Clemens VI, in 1342, made the Franciscan Friars, led by a Custos (literally meaning the Guardian), the official custodians of the Holy Places in the Holy Land.
In 1847, Pope Pius IX reestablished the residential Latin Patriarch See in Jerusalem. The first Patriarch to come back was Joseph Valerga, 37 years old, with broad experience of the East, and knowledge of local oriental languages. He had served first in the Apostolic Delegation of Beirut and had made a lengthy visit in Iraq with the Chaldean Church. As Patriarch he was also appointed Apostolic Delegate for the Middle East with residence in Beirut, where he used to spend six months of the year.
With the reestablishment of the diocese, the Equestrian Order of the knights of the Holy Sepulcher was also reestablished by the same Pope Pius IX who entrusted its reorganization to the first Patriarch Valerga. So the two historical institutions were reestablished put together and for the same aim by Pope Pius IX: to serve Christians in the Land of Jesus, the Patriarchate had to work in the land itself, and the Order, throughout the world, had to support this new diocese in the Holy Land.
The reestablishment of a residential Latin Patriarch in Jerusalem marked the return and the coming of many other religious Orders and Congregations to the Holy Land at the service of the renewed Roman Catholic Latin Diocese. The main religious Order still remains the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land. But thirty one other men and seventy two women religious Congregations are also present now in the Latin Patriarchal Diocese for various ministries, Holy Places, welcoming of pilgrims, biblical studies, pastoral and social work.
Ever since the reestablishment of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem (LPJ) 1847, it has been promoting the best interests of the local communities it serves. Today, the Patriarchal Diocese oversees approximately 150,000 faithful in four countries; Israel, Palestine, Jordan and Cyprus, covering a rich tapestry of cultures, languages, religions and traditions. Serving all with special emphasis on the support and care of indigenous Holy Land Christians remains the enduring mission of the Mother Church, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The family is the fundamental building block of the local community and of society at large. As a result, the Church of Jerusalem takes a holistic approach in its work and assistance. While starting with the youngest group in the society; children and youth, the LPJ builds outwards to serve the immediate parents, the surrounding community and ultimately the society as a whole.
Of course, the Great Commission (Matt 28:19-20) makes it clear that the core mission of the Church is Word and Sacrament: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them… teaching them.” However, the Church also sees social justice as integral to the meaning of the Gospel and not just an implication of it. If justice is only an implication, it can easily become optional and probably non-existent. Jesus reminds His followers: “Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” (Matt 25:45)
The Patriarchal Diocese oversees about 150,000 faithful in four countries; Israel, Palestine, Jordan and Cyprus, covering a rich tapestry of cultures, languages, religions and traditions. In Jerusalem, the Catholic community is the largest Christian community, with some 4,500 people out of an estimated Christian population of about 11,000.
Serving all with special emphasis on the support and care of indigenous Holy Land Christians remains the enduring mission of the Mother Church, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
The Diocese of Jerusalem