VATICAN CITY — Pope John Paul II on Monday appointed a Palestine-born Arab priest as patriarch of Jerusalem for Latin rite Catholics.
Vatican officials said they believe it is the first time an Arab has been named to the post, established by the Crusaders in 1099.
The new patriarch is Michel Sabbah, 54, born in Nazareth. He previously served as a parish priest in Amman, Jordan, and as president of the Catholic University of Bethlehem.
He succeeds Patriarch Giacomo Giuseppe Beltritti, 77, an Italian whose retirement for reasons of age was announced Monday.
Church sources said the Pope will consecrate Sabbah in his new post at a ceremony at the Vatican on Jan. 6.