Rome, Thursday, July 28, 2011
The Meeting of Comboni Bishops opened on July 21 at the spirituality center run by the Comboni Missionary Sisters in Bethany, near Jerusalem, and ends next July 30.

The Meeting of Comboni Bishops opened on July 21 at the spirituality center run by the Comboni Missionary Sisters in Bethany, near Jerusalem, and ends next July 30.

The participants were Bishops Camillo Ballin, Giuseppe Sandri, Giovanni Migliorati, Giuseppe Filippi, Giuseppe Franzelli, Juan José Aguirre, Miguel Sebastián, Michele Russo, Rino Perin, Jaime Rodríguez, Vittorino Girardi, Eugenio Arellano and, by invitation, the superior general of the Comboni Missionary Sisters, Mother Luzia Premoli,  the superior general of the Comboni Missionaries, Fr. Enrique Sánchez, and Fr. Arnaldo Baritussio, procurator general of the Comboni Missionaries.

During the first three days, the bishops and the superior generals shared the experiences of the pastoral work entrusted to them in their respective dioceses and missions. In the course of the sharing much was said about the challenges, difficulties and worries that are part of the ministry of shepherds at the services of those dioceses and of our missionary institutes.

These first days were a beautiful time of enrichment and of understanding of the work and service carried out in the dioceses where we are present as bishops and of the journey we are currently undertaking as a Comboni family.

On the first day, we decided to begin with a special thought for our confrere, Bishop Caesar Mazzolari, who died a few days before the meeting in his diocese of Rumbek. His memory remains with us and it was an opportunity to thank the Lord for the missionary and Episcopal service that Bishop Mazzolari carried out for the good of the people of South Sudan.

In the course of the sharing carried out during these days some of our brother bishops underlined the importance of the experience of the Comboni charism in their ministry and mission and helped us understand how important it is for them to recognize themselves as Comboni Missionaries.

Being a Comboni Missionary allowed me to live my Episcopal ministry very close to the people – said one of them – remembering the desire of Saint Daniel Comboni to make common cause especially with the poorest.

The Comboni charism –said another – has helped me to love and appreciate my cooperators, my priests and all the people who share the pastoral work with me, despite the moments of difficulty and suffering.

To be a Comboni bishop has led me to not be satisfied only with the work done, but I have always felt pushed to go beyond the challenges, seeking new answers to the situations I face in my ministry.

My missionary and Comboni vocation urges me to move ever forward in the task of announcing the Word of God, I feel called to go beyond the parish to meet people in their real situation.

Mother Luzia and Fr. Enrique spoke of the current situation of the Comboni Institutes, underlining the necessity of continuing the reflection that arose from the General Chapters and the urgency of finding new ways of answering the needs of our times and of a changing mission.

As Comboni Institutes we feel called to continue our missionary service, conscious of the fact that today we are expected to do some serious discernment in order to take correct decisions that will allow us to better use our energies and resources, especially the human resources, in the Church and in today’s world, with all the challenges and needs that it entails.

The morning of Sunday, July 24, the celebration of the Eucharist was held in the church of St. Ann, where we were welcomed by the White Fathers and, guided by them, we also visited the pool of Bethesda. In the afternoon, we had a cordial meeting with H. E. William Shomali, Episcopal vicar of the Latin Patriarchate.

On Monday, July 25, as in the previous days, we opened the day’s activities with the celebration of the Eucharist and, in the course of the morning, we met with Fr. David Neuhaus, SJ, who, within the patriarchate, is in charge of the Catholics of Hebrew origin, who spoke to us on the topic of the Word of God in the mission of the Church and shared with us also a reflection on the Church in the Holy Land.

There are plans for a meeting with the Nuncio, Bishop Antonio Franco, who will speak to us on the relations between the Holy See and Israel.

Following these meetings of sharing and formation, there are plans for a short pilgrimage to visit some of the holy places, remembering in particular those visited by our founder, Saint Daniel Comboni.

The meeting was from the very start a true experience of fraternity, sharing, prayer and listening in a deeply Comboni environment.

The remembrance of the presence of Comboni in this holy land has made us understand that, for him, that visit of 1857 was a point of reference in his life as a missionary, a bishop and the apostle of Africa. We hope that it will be the same also for us, following the gift of this meeting and this visit to the land of the Lord.