The Patriarch’s jurisdiction extends over the Hebrew Catholics and Arab Latin Catholics of Israel and the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank. He was a parish priest for some years before being appointed to the University of St. Joseph in Beirut to study Arabic literature.
Shortly afterwards he was placed in charge of the schools of the Latin Patriarchate’s schools until the Arab-Israeli War of 1967 in which the Israelis occupied what had been Jordanian territory, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Following that upheaval he moved to Djibouti in East Africa where he taught Arabic and Islamic studies until 1973, when he moved to France to study Arabic philology at the Sorbonne. In 1980 he was made President of the University of Bethlehem and seven years later His Holiness Pope John-Paul II named him as the new Patriarch for the Latins of Jerusalem, making him the first native Palestinian to hold that office as the highest–ranking Latin cleric in the Holy Land. His Beatitude has thus become the representative for many Christians, not just his own Latin flock, to Jews and the Muslims in the Holy Land. He has been very vocal in his standing up for the rights of the Palestinian people, both Christian and Muslim, but has been equally outspoken in his criticism of the Palestinian Authority from time to time.
Lacking a political movement to represent their needs, the Christians look to the Patriarchate as their advocate. He has always advocated the two state solution and the rights of exiled Palestinians to return. He has severely criticised the security fence and has emphasized the need for peaceful co-operation, and on this score he has served as the International President of Pax Christi since 1999, a Catholic organization working for the peace of Jerusalem and the Holy Land.