Farewell celebration for Holy Land Nuncio
JERUSALEM – Thursday, June 28 Archbishop Antonio Franco celebrated in the chapel of Notre Dame Center, the Holy Mass for the seventh anniversary of the pontificate of Benedict XVI. During the celebration, the Patriarch Fouad Twal was also able to greet the bishop, who finished his mission as Apostolic Nuncio in Israel and Apostolic Delegate to Jerusalem.
A few months after his election, April 19, 2005, Benedict XVI appointed Archbishop Antonio Franco, Apostolic Nuncio in Israel and Apostolic Delegate to Jerusalem. It was January 22, 2006. Now, at age 75, after more than six years of service, Archbishop Franco leaves the Holy Land. Before his departure, the Nuncio celebrated three Masses for the Anniversary of the Holy Father: Wednesday, June 27 at St. Peter in Jaffa, Thursday, June 28 at the Notre Dame Center in Jerusalem and Saturday, and June 30 at the Basilica of St. Catherine in Bethlehem
During the Mass celebrated in the chapel of the Notre Dame Center, the Patriarch, in his sermon (in English here), thanked Archbishop Franco “on behalf of all the faithful, religious leaders and religious congregations.” He pointed out, some of the Nuncio’s traits, “a diplomat, a professor, a representative of the vicar of Christ, and a shepherd of souls.” The Patriarch emphasized the experience and expertise of the Archbishop who was able to act with a “contagious optimism” in “particularly sensitive” situations during the six years of his mission.
This was particularly evident concerning the negotiations on future agreements between Israel and the Holy See, in which the Nuncio was actively involved. Archbishop Fouad Twal, after having expressed his “heartfelt thanks” to Archbishop Franco, invited him “not to forget Jerusalem and its people.” The Patriarch concluded: “We will never forget you, and we will accompany you with our prayers and sincere best wishes.”
Archbishop Franco is originally from Campania (Italy). Born in 1937, and was ordained a priest in 1960. Prior to being appointed Nuncio in Israel and Cyprus and Apostolic Delegate to Jerusalem and Palestine, where he replaced Archbishop Monsignor Pietro Sambi, he was Apostolic Nuncio in the Philippines.
Amélie de La Hougue