The European Group for Theological Reflection meet with the Comboni Provincials of Europe



Roma: Monday 14th March 2011

Members of the European Group for Theological Reflection (GERT) held a day-long Meeting with the Provincial Superiors of Europe in Rome on March 12th last.

The Provincials of Europe met with Members of the ‘European Group for Theological Reflection (GERT)’ on Saturday 12th March 2011 at the General Curia in Rome. This Group has been instrumental in stimulating a journey of reflection in the Comboni Provinces of Europe over the course of the last nine years. The fruits of this reflection, on themes such as ‘Spirituality and the Mission’, ‘Evangelization’, the ‘Charism of Comboni and Inculturation’ and ‘Governance’ have been included in the Continental Project of On-going Formation of the said Provinces.

According to Father Fernando Zolli, “initiated nine years ago, this Reflection Group has sought to be an instrument to enhance the role of missionary pastoral work on the European Continent, contributing in such a way as to ensure that our ‘Missionary Animation’ is neither generic nor repetitive”. From 2002 onwards various works of reflection have been produced, some of have which have been published, in particular the ‘Symposia of Limone’. “This Group reflects, offers the fruits of such reflections to a wider audience and is ready to animate, conduct retreats, and undertake similar initiatives, always with the aim of re-qualifying our missionary presence in Europe”, affirmed Father Zolli. The Father was of the further opinion that our Missionaries should be more present in the academic world, where to some extent we are already appreciated for our work in this field.

In similar vein, Father Benito De Marchi, continued, “The work produced by the Group has helped in our understanding of what it means to be Missionaries today, offering a series of reflections that has permitted a ‘reading’ of the present situation of Europe as a reality of Mission. This has encouraged the adoption of a new paradigm of Mission, namely that as Missionaries we are no longer the principal subjects of Mission, but rather we are called to undertake a role as collaborators in and with the Local Church”. All the same, it would appear that it is necessary to improve lines of communication with our Communities in such a way as to further “circulate the ideas and reflections offered by the Group”, observed Father De Marchi.

Along the same lines, Father Alex Zanotelli appreciated the work of the Group with regard to   providing common indicators for the Mission in Europe today. “This is a good sign – he said – and

proof of a noteworthy capacity to work together as a group”. Alex was of the opinion, however, that among Comboni Missionaries “moments of debate, a lively exchange of ideas, reflecting on  present-day reality, and greater efforts to understand the world in which we live, were more necessary than ever. Our Local Communities need to mature in this regard in order to make a qualitative leap in their understanding”.  

Father Mariano Tibaldo, attending the Meeting on behalf of the General Secretariat of Evangelization, was not in complete agreement with the notion that such reflection was not being undertaken on other Continents, “Reflection is taking place – he said – just that it is not widely disseminated nor is it systematic. It is reflection geared primarily to action, and if the Confrérès of our Communities are not involved, this often depends on who exercises the role of authority in our Provinces, on the Provincial Superiors”. Tibaldo attributed to the Group the role of ‘watchman’ in ‘raising the alarm’ as to how the paradigms of Mission are changing in our very midst. In light of this, he thought that the Group should not “limit its reflections solely to Europe, but rather it is called to be open to the whole world given that many of today’s problems are truly global, to ‘network’ with other Continents and in this way undertake a role of Missionary Animation throughout the Institute”.

The Meeting was told that the Reflection Group was in the process of elaborating a ‘reading’ of the Letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians, and was seeking to deepen our commitment among Immigrants, in collaboration with the Local Church in Italy, thanks in great part to the contribution of the ‘Director for Migrants’ of the Italian Episcopal Conference and Ms. Eugenia Bonetti, an expert in the phenomenon of human trafficking with particular reference to young women.

A further initiative that has been programmed is the ‘Sixth Symposium of Limone’ (April 26th/29th 2011) that has as its principle theme ‘The Comboni Mission in the Churches of Europe: What Structures of Governance?’ with an historical perspective on Comboni in this regard and consideration of the governance structures of other religious Congregations in Europe.

With the aim of ‘reading’ the reality of Europe from a ‘Comboni’ point of view, ecclesial and ecumenical, in order to study and elaborate a common plan of action, it was decided to organize a ‘Continental Assembly on Missionary Animation’ at Pesaro (Italy) February 7th/17th 2012 with the theme, “Our Missionary Presence in Europe Today”.

The ‘European Group for Theological Reflection’ is composed of Fathers Fernando Zolli, Benito De Marchi, Alex Zanotelli, Joaquim Valente, Manuel Augusto Ferreira, Franz Weber and Antonio Del Pozzo. The last three Confrérès were unable to be present due to prior commitments. The Provincials and Members of the General Administration who attended were: Fathers Alberto Silva,  (Portugal), Ramón Eguíluz (Spain), Corrado Masini (Italy), Martin Devenish (LP), Gianni Gaiga (Poland), Alberto Pelucchi (Vicar-General), Jorge García (General Secretary for Missionary Animation) and Mariano Tibaldo (General Secretary for Evangelization). Father Josef Altenburger, Provincial Superior of the DSP, was unfortunately not able to be present due to the death of his dear Mother on the previous Wednesday.  

Among themes proposed for the Group’s future consideration were: Ethical Finance and Investments;   Islam in and beyond Europe; From ‘Missionary Animation’ to ‘Evangelization’; The ‘Language’ and ‘Role’ of Communication Techniques and the World of Mass Communication; and Identity, Charism and Mission: three faces of the same rock.

Other Continent-wide Meetings that are planned for Europe in 2011: Comboni Missionaries involved in the Ministry to Migrants, March 30th/April 4th 2011, in Rome; Comboni Lay Missionaries, April 30th/May 1st 2011, in Limone sul Garda (Italy); Provincials of Europe, May  30th/June 2nd 2011, in London; On-Going Formation, June 27th/30th 2011, in Rome; Continental Council for Justice and Peace/Integrity of Creation, June 26th/30th 2011, in Rome; Assembly for Formators of Novitiates, Scholasticates and I.C.B., July 10th/30th 2011, in Palencia (Spain); and Provincials of Europe, November 21st/25th 2011, in Madrid.