Monthly newsletter of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus
5th CELAM Conference
The 5th conference of the bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean is due to take place from 13 to 31 May 2007 at the Aparecida Shrine (Brazil). The theme of the conference will be: “Disciples and missionaries of Jesus Christ, so that our peoples may have life in Him – I am the way, the truth and the life”.
This conference is an extremely important ecclesial event for the local Churches. The presence of Pope Benedict XVI at its opening shows the importance of the conference for the life of the Church: it comes within a path that goes from the foundation of CELAM to the present day, passing through the Second Vatican Council, Medellin, Puebla and San Domingo.
We hope that Aparecida may confirm and strengthen the progress of a pilgrim Church, made up of living communities, committed to life and the promotion of Justice and Peace and ever more missionary.
As a sign of communion with our confreres working in Latin America, the General Administration invites all the confreres to accompany the conference with their prayers.
On 9 May, Pope Benedict XVI will canonise Fra’ Antonio Sant’Anna Galvão, the first Brazilian saint born in that country.
Bro. Parotti Claudio Pietro (I) Padova (I) 25.04.2007
Bro. António Manuel Nunes Ferreira (P) Vila Chã (P) 29.04.2007
Sc. Amoussou Comlan Ghislain (T) Pietermaritzburg (RSA) 29.04.2007
Sc. Gnaha Cossi Bonaventure Henri (T) Pietermaritzburg (RSA) 29.04.2007
Sc. Recalde Randito Tina (A) Pietermaritzburg (RSA) 29.04.2007
Bro. González Jiménez Luis Humberto (PE) Lima (PE) 29.04.2007
Fr. Atitse Kokou (Donatien) (T) Lomé-Kodjoviakope (TGO) 24.04.2007
Holy Redeemer Guild
May 01 – 07 ET 08 – 15 ER 16 – 31 IT
June 01 – 15 KE 16 – 30 KH
May - That as in Mary, the woman in whom God dwells, contemplation may increasingly become a basic aspect of a life consecrated to the mission. Let us pray.
June - That the Pierced Heart of the Good Shepherd may enable us to be moved by the wounds of humanity, make common cause with the people who receive us and maintain the hope of a world transformed by the Gospel. Let us pray.
Easter march for justice and peace in Ellwangen
“Easter Marches” have become an established tradition in Germany: in many towns and cities of the Republic these demonstrations for disarmament and fostering peace take place around the feast of the Resurrection of the Lord. Usually these marches make reference to situations of war, military engagements, buying of weapons and peace efforts.
On Holy Saturday this year such a march was held in Ellwangen. The slogan of the demonstration was "Learning peace, practising justice, taking up responsibility". The participants were people from all walks of social and political life. The Comboni Missionaries took part in it. Fr. Reinhold Baumann, in fact, was one of the main speakers, representing the Catholic Church. Referring to measures against acts of terrorism, he told the audience: "Security and peace are two different pairs of shoes. As long as we try to obtain security by buying weapons, terrorists will follow suit and handle things by increasing the number of their weapons." Fr. Baumann underlined the fact that "lasting peace is only possible through social equality, through fair global trade, through just distribution of goods and resources." His words were met with a long applause.
Holy Saturday was not the first time that Fr. Baumann spoke in public. Already last November, during a demonstration against neo-nazis in Ellwangen, he spoke strongly and convincingly.
The Government tightens its grip on the Church
As it was published on several occasions through different mass media reports, the government of Eritrea has increasingly isolated itself both internally and externally. Highly centralized political and economic policies have suffocated the life of the people, visibly neutralizing and marginalising them inside their own country. There is economic recession, while educational standards and social benefits have hit the lowest level in the history of the nation. Anyone who knew the situation of Eritrea during the 50s and 60s could not recognize that of the present. The government is notorious for its harsh prison conditions, its severe human rights abuses and its dictatorial one-man show. The border war with Ethiopia may have aggravated the situation, but by now it is crystal clear that the problem has more to do with governance. The border war with Ethiopia can no longer be used to justify the many abuses such as those against human rights, the denial of press freedom and the closure of private sectors.
In this state of affairs the Catholic Church, one of the four officially permitted religions, is also facing its restrictions and of late it has become the target of the state apparatus. The Orthodox, Evangelical and Moslem religions have long ago come under the control and manipulation of the State. The Orthodox patriarch, Abuna Antonios, has been imprisoned for over a year for having openly refused the interference of the government in church affairs. He will live to be remembered by the faithful for his courageous stand for the truth. Since then, the Orthodox Church, 50% of the population, is being administered by a layman.
In the last 15 years the State and Catholic Church relationship was more diplomatic than cordial. The relationship deteriorated when, at the end of last year, the bishops wrote a strong letter to the Department of Religious Affairs, refusing to send young priests, religious (including nuns) and all candidates in formation to the infamous military national service. The above mentioned department has asked the Catholic Church to make available all its young personnel for the military national service, a service that originally was supposed to last 18 months, but it has now has become never-ending. The bishops’ letter stressed among other things that sending priests and religious to military service shows disrespect for the mentality and a century old tradition of the people. In addition, the bishops stated clearly that such a decision was a deliberate move to weaken the Church. The letter was welcomed by the faithful and the religious. The Comboni Missionaries and Comboni Sisters wrote a joint letter of solidarity to the bishops and urged them to fight on, because the suffering of the people under the present regime had reached a breaking point.
The government was angered by the letter of the bishops. Though there has never being a written reply, the government is indirectly taking its revenge and the threat to expel the expatriate missionaries is part of it. A list of nine expatriate missionaries, among them one Comboni Missionary and one Comboni Sister, was given to the Eritrean Catholic Secretariat asking them to present themselves to immigration offices before 25 March 2007. An emergency meeting was held by the major superiors and after a long dialogue the immigration office agreed to delay their departure for one month. These are missionaries who served for many years in the country. According to a law promulgated in 2006, all expatriates should be substituted after two years by local personnel. The Church has been arguing with the government that missionaries are not NGOs and, therefore, such a decree should not be applied to them. But all reasons presented by the Church have so far met no positive reply.
At present the Bishops and the Major Superiors are seeking ways of presenting their complaints to higher government officials. We still do not know how things will end. But we are ready to face such repression and it is high time that the Church reacted to the numerous human right abuses of the government.
The Comboni Missionaries and Comboni Sisters are taking a clear stand: the Church can survive without missionaries, but the people cannot survive without bread and freedom. We think that it is high time that the Church expressed its concern and showed solidarity with the suffering people.
World Social Forum in Eritrea
After the big event of the World Social Form (WSF) in Nairobi, 20-25 January 2007, the two Comboni Missionaries from Eritrea who participated in the event, Fr. Sebhatleab Ayele Yesemma and Sr. Tseghereda Yohannes, organized a workshop of awareness and animation for all the Comboni Missionaries and the Comboni Sisters in Eritrea, including the postulants and novices of the Comboni Family.
Three-day workshops were organized during which they shared their experiences at the WSF. In all, more than 100 members of the Comboni Family took part in the workshop. The main events and topics of the WSF were presented to the participants and several group discussions were carried out in an atmosphere of prayer. Very few people had known that the WSF was such an important event that gives voice to the emarginated and less privileged groups by the present world order. The slogan of the WSF: “Another world (one without poverty, war, prisoners, refugees, Aids patients, etc.) is possible” made a great impression on the participants, echoing as it does, the charism of Comboni.
The national commission for Justice and Peace is organizing a workshop on the WSF in a wider context: for religious and laity. We believe that similar workshops can be good occasions for animating the local Church. In addition, the socio-political situation of the country really needs close attention especially on issues of Justice and Peace.
Commemoration of Fr. Ambrosoli
Twenty years from the death of Fr. Giuseppe Ambrosoli, the parish community of Ronago (CO), his home town, with the collaboration of the local Missionary Support Group, remembered the Comboni Missionary doctor with a Eucharistic celebration and an informal reception in the parish hall. The celebration took place on 27 March, the anniversary of the death of Fr. Ambrosoli. Fr. Giacomo Palagi, vice-provincial of Italy, presided at the Mass, at which confreres from the nearby communities of Rebbio and Venegono as well as some diocesan priests of the area participated.
Don Eugenio Verga, parish priest of Ronago, said he considers it important to remember Fr. Ambrosoli “in order to pass on to everyone, especially the youth, the great gift of Fr. Ambrosoli and to carry on the work of solidarity, that has never weakened in recent years, with the hospital of Kalongo, in Uganda.”
The province of Italy, through the secretariats of mission and vocation promotion, have decided to do again the experience of the Peace Caravan 2007. The novelty this year is that the initiative is open to all the Missionary Institutes and lay missionary organisations and has been accepted by USMA (United Secretariat for Missionary Animation) and by CMIT (Conference of Missionary Institutes in Italy). Preparations began with two meetings, one in Brescia for the North (30 March) and one in Naples for the South (31 March). During these meetings the previous Caravans were remembered and the main characteristics of the initiative were reaffirmed: being on the move, the presence of the youth, listening to the voice of the South of the world, the ties with the local situation and the world of mission. Participation was meaningful and varied, showing that the Peace Caravan is considered a valid instrument of collaboration and communion for the Italian missionary situation. In concrete terms, due to the short time available for preparation, two assemblies are planned for the second half of September (at Cimitile for the South and at Venegono for the North) which will serve as the foundation on which to organise a Peace Caravan in 2008, based on the previous model.
Nigrizia Editor wins 2007 ICPU prize for Journalism
The “International Award for Excellence in Journalism (World Importance) 2007” of the International Catholic Press Union (ICPU), has been won by Fr. Carmine Curci, editor of Nigrizia. In awarding the prize, the members of the jury explained their decision by highlighting “the commitment and dedication to the rights of peoples and especially the peoples of the South of the world – a commitment fundamental to the common good”. The award will be conferred in a special ceremony during the ICPU World Congress scheduled for June this year at Sherbrooke, Canada.
The ETR agency, specialised in market research, has declared that the Nigrizia website (www.nigrizia.it) is to be considered among the best in Italy in the sector of information, thanks to a flexible and elegant design and the constant updating of its data. At present it has around 80,000 hits a week. During a meeting at Palazzo Chigi, the under-secretary to the president, Enrico Letta, stated: “Despite our differences, Nigrizia is, and will remain, a point of reference for the Italian political classes. This is especially true as regards our foreign policy in Africa”. In the meantime, the Embassy of Eritrea has taken a strong position against the magazine, accused of taking sides against the government.
Bishop James O'Brien
On 11 April 2007, Bishop James O'Brien, Bishop for Hertfordshire in the Westminster Diocese, died after a valiant struggle with cancer. Bishop O'Brien, ordained priest in 1954 and Bishop in 1977, was well known to the members of our recently closed scholasticate community in Elstree. Over the last 30 years the Bishop ordained numerous scholastics to the diaconate and has shared with us both joys and sorrows. He was always available to us, gave advice and guidance in a clear but kindly way. His passing marks the end of an era, but it reinforces a friendship that will never end, since what we still have in common is an unshakable faith in the Love and Mercy of Jesus Christ, Lord of Life.
Second meeting of Comboni candidates
On 24 March, the Comboni candidates of the province met for the second time at the San Miguel Postulancy. Besides the postulants, also the novices (a representative group accompanied by Fr. Ángel Lafita Irigoyen) and the professed theological students took part. The Comboni Missionary Sisters of the Pamplona and Pueblo Libre communities also participated.
The meeting, which lasted the whole day, was opened with a prayer led by the Sisters of Pamplona who emphasised the importance of silence to encounter God and to speak to the Holy Spirit, the protagonist of mission. This was followed by the input of Bro. Hugo Cáceres, who spoke of Comboni discipleship in view of the 5th CELAM Conference at Aparecida (Brazil). He encouraged the imitation of the far-sightedness and passion of St. Daniel Comboni, in order to announce the Gospel according to the challenges of today. Immediately afterwards, the participants gathered in groups to reflect upon the ‘Sequela Christi’, as lived by Comboni and as lived by themselves today.
After lunch, time was dedicated to getting to know one another better. The conclusions of the different groups were presented in a creative way, by words and songs.
Fr. Rogelio Bustos Juárez, the provincial, greeted the young people and invited them to persevere and support one another in their vocation. During the Mass, concelebrated by Fr. Ángel Lafita, Fr. Rodolfo Coaquira Hilaje and Fr. Louis Tony Okot Ochermoi, the Latin-American martyr, Mons. Oscar Romero, archbishop of San Salvador, was remembered, being the anniversary of his death. This showed the need to follow the example of so many martyrs who paid with their lives for preaching the Gospel with compassion and service towards the poorest and most abandoned.
After Mass, the supper was another occasion for sharing and getting to know one another better. A concert, with songs and dances, pleasantly concluded this second meeting of the Comboni candidates.
IN PACE CHRISTI
Fr. Giuseppe Barbára (21.03.1941 – 06.04.2007)
Fr. Raffaele Dellagiacoma (23.10.1935 – 12.04.2007)
Let us pray for our dead
THE FATHER: Giovanni, of Fr. Marco Canovi (I); Antonio, of Fr. Luís Filipe da Costa Dias (LP).
THE MOTHER: Anna Maria, of Fr. Franco Terlimbacco (C); Giuditta, of Bro. Roberto Strabla (I).
THE BROTHER: René, of Fr. Norbert Rangu Mogoro (T); Gaetano, of Fr. Giuseppe Ambrosi (I); Giovanni, of Fr. Antonio Falaguasta (I).
THE SISTER: Orsola, of Bro. Luigi Cometti (MZ).
THE COMBONI MISSIONARY SISTER: Sr. Cristofora Seppi.
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