EGYPT-SUDAN

Immagine

Sede:  Comboni House - KHARTOUM (Sudan)
Superiore provinciale: P. Kyankaaga S. John Richard

EGITTO

Per Comboni, l’Egitto è “la porta dell’Africa”. La varca per la prima volta nel 1857, con i compagni della spedizione missionaria di Don Mazza. Ci ripassa poi più volte, ma è solo nel 1867, come capo del nuovo istituto missionario da lui fondato, che stabilisce in Cairo Vecchio, presso il convento dei Maroniti, due istituti per africani, uno maschile e l’altro femminile. Sempre al Cairo, nel 1869, apre una terza casa, la “Sacra Famiglia”, la prima scuola con maestre nere. Il fatto è che nel “Piano per la rigenerazione dell’Africa”, l’Egitto gioca un ruolo essenziale, come prima tappa e centro di acclimatazione per i missionari e missionarie destinati all’Africa centrale, come pure per la formazione umana e cristiana degli africani che dovranno poi a loro volta addentrarsi nel continente ed essere gli evangelizzatori della propria gente. Per questo, nel 1879, quando giunge in Africa il secondo gruppo delle sue missionarie, Comboni costituisce in Cairo la prima comunità delle Pie Madri della Nigrizia. Oltre che per l’acclimatazione, il tempo passato in Egitto deve servire per l’apprendimento dell’arabo. Sempre al Cairo, nel 1880, Comboni assiste alla benedizione della prima pietra dell’attuale “santuario Cordi Jesu” , il primo dedicato al Cuore di Gesù in tutta l’Africa. E sempre in Egitto, nella chiesa di Assuan, verranno conservate per circa 60 anni, le poche ossa ritrovate nella tomba di Comboni dopo la bufera mahdista. È quindi dai tempi del fondatore che comboniani e comboniane prestano ininterrottamente il loro servizio missionario in Egitto. Molte case ed istituzioni sono state chiuse, come la famosa Colonia antischiavista Leone XIII di Ghesirah (Zamalek), fondata nel 1888 dal successore di Comboni, Mons. Sogaro per i profughi sudanesi. Attualmente, la presenza comboniana nel paese consta di 6 comunità maschili e ben 15 femminili che cercano di rispondere in vari modi alle diverse esigenze locali.

I comboniani sono ancora presenti in tre parrocchie del Cairo. Cordi Jesu, iniziata da Comboni, è anche centro di incontri e preghiera per vari movimenti ecclesiali. Intorno alla chiesa di Sakakini si radunano e vengono seguiti invece migliaia di profughi africani, specialmente sudanesi. I profughi etiopici hanno come punto di riferimento la parrocchia di Zamalek, una delle più attive di tutto il Cairo, frequentata da persone di 52 nazioni.

La scuola della parrocchia di Helouan, coi suoi 1.700 allievi in maggioranza musulmani, è da oltre 100 anni un luogo d’incontro e di dialogo con musulmani e copti ortodossi. Ad Assuan, la cattedrale fondata da Mons. Roveggio nel 1895 è ora parrocchia copta e latina, punto di riferimento anche ai numerosi turisti poiché è l’unica chiesa cattolica in città.

Di particolare importanza a Zamalek, in Cairo, il Centro di Studi Arabi, chiamato opportunamente Dar Comboni. Diretto dai comboniani, e aperto ad una sessantina di sacerdoti e religiosi/e di tutto il mondo, il centro collabora con il PISAI di Roma. È un’iniziativa in linea con le necessità intuite giá da Comboni, quando, scrivendo al fondatore dei Verbiti, Arnold Jansen (canonizzato con lui il 5 Ottobre 2003!), diceva che i suoi missionari “studieranno l’arabo in Egitto, che è per noi necessario come la teologia”. Dopo alterne vicende, dal 1 Gennaio 1996 il gruppo comboniano è tornato ad avere lo statuto giuridico di Delegazione.

Khartoum (SUDAN)

Comboni spent all his life for Africa, particularly for Sudan. When Mutran es Sudan, the Bishop of Sudan, died, at the age of 50, in Khartoum, in the year 1881, the Vicariate of Central Africa was not any more just a name written in the Church’s Maps, it was a reality that started bearing fruits. Asswan, Wadi Halpha, Berber, Swakin, Omdurman, El Obeid, Dilling, Malbes were the missionary stations of the time, and in each of them there were priests, brothers, sisters, lay people who had made their own the dream of Comboni.
With times, some gave up, but others went on till they died in the field. Their names are part of the history of the Sudanese Church. Among those missionaries of Comboni those of African origin played an important role. Priests like the Benedictine Pio Hadrian or the ex slave Antonio Dogale, whom Comboni had ransomed in Aden and who later on was made responsible for Malbes’ agricultural scheme. And the African women teachers whom Comboni brought with himself from Verona, after preparing them for years to be missionaries in their own countries. Among the Sudanese ones we remember Catherine Zenab, Denka by tribe, “a great missionary, most able” in the words of Comboni, and Fortunata Quisce’, a Nuba by tribe, who later on became the first African Pia Madre della Nigrizia. Sr. Fortunata faced courageously the Mahdi prison and after the tragedy remained faithful to the mission till the end. Also Daniel Sorur whom Cmboni had ransomed from slavery, after Comboni’s death went back and ministered in Swakin. In them Comboni had foreseen the fruits and the fulfillment of his plan. To regenerate Africa through Africans is possible!

The devastating storm of the Mahdiya seemed to put an end and wipe away all the Comboni work. On January 26. 1885. Khartoum itself fell to the Mahdists. But five years later, on the 4th of January 1900. Bishop Roveggio was again in the capital to resume the journey. The following year, on the boat Redemptor, the Comboni Missionaries were already in the South, at Lul, to be followed in 1903 by the Comboni Sisters. Since then Sudan has been for the all the members of the Comboni family, “the mission”.

The Anglo-Egyptian Government divided Southern Sudan into zones of influence, giving to the Catholics the West of Upper Nile and Bahr el Ghazal. In the North the Church was only allowed to assist those who were already Christians and run activities of education or charity, but direct evangelization was strictly forbidden. In fact for decades the missionaries both males and females were engaged in schools and dispensaries. Comboni College became a renowned Institution, famous for its standard. It formed hundreds of young people, mostly Muslim, who later on occupied important positions in the Sudanese society. These institutions gave the Church recognition and moral prestige in the Sudanese society, in spite of all the Government restrictions.

After independence a new phase started. A lot of Southerners come to the North to escape the war, and the Christian communities started flourishing everywhere in the big towns, such as Khartoum, El Obeid, Medani, Kosti, and also in areas where there had never been Christians before, like in Dar Fur. The Church became a point of reference and an anchor of salvation in situations often desperate. First evangelization, catechesis, education, health services, women promotion, seminaries, formation of leaders found the Comboni Missionaries fully involved. Thousands and thousands of children and young people found their way in education thanks to the work of the Church.

From the time of Comboni till thirty years ago, the Comboni Missionaries were alone in the field. In the seventies other forces joined in and today we have 11 male institutes and 16 female institutes giving their contribution in the different fields of apostolate. There has been an enormous increase of local priests and local religious and today the diocesan priests are more than the missionaries.

At the death of Mons. Comboni Rome chose Mons. Francesco Sogaro to succeed him. After Sogaro there were five Bishops belonging to the congregation: Antonio Roveggio, Franz Xavier Geyer, Paolo T. Silvestri, Francesco Saverio Bini, Agostino Baroni. As from 1981, hundred years after the death of Comboni, a Sudanese, Gabriel Zubeir Wako, is the Archbishop of Khartoum. In 2003 he was created Cardinal. The Archdiocese of Khartoum has about 70 diocesan priests. Other 30 priests are in the Diocese of El Obeid under the leadership of Mons. Antonio Menegazzo MCCJ.
Te Church has gone a long way since the time of Comboni, but the work is not complete. It will never be. Since the beginning the Cross has accompanied the mission of Sudan: first the Mahdiya, then the two wars after the independence. In 2005 a peace agreement was signed for the South. We still live in an uncertain situation: a referendum in 2011 will decide if the South remains united with the North or separates. Meanwhile tensions still arise here and there. The war in Dar Fur, now at its 5th year, is a source of sufferings for the people but also of political tensions and uncertainty. We do not lose hope, and for this we continue to be here. The dream of Comboni is alive, now more than ever also through the Sudanese members who joined the Institute: 2 Bishops, 19 priests and 3 Scholastics, some of whom missionaries outside Sudan.

Because of the political situation, in 1997 the communities of Wau and Raga, although geographically in the South, were attached to our province and will continue being part of Khartoum Province till the referendum of 2011.

Among the important initiatives of these last years we mention the Catholic University which is taking shape in Khartoum. The “Comboni College for Science and Technology” (CCST) is now running 5 programs, of which the last (Education and Religious Sciences ERS) was approved on December 2, 2008. The Comboni Missionaries have started the process. Hopefully the Sudanese Catholic Bishops Conference will take the project into its hands to guarantee to it continuity and expansion.

Delegazione dell'Egitto