Tuesday 30 December 2014

Blantyre - The joy for a pastoral mission in the Malawian periphery

Christmas opens a new time, a prospective of hope and redemption that starts from the infant in a manger, from the “Yes” of a girl of the periphery, from the birth into the world of a baby.
It is also time for novelty and new perspectives for the Community of Sant’Egidio in Africa. In Mpemba, a township about ten minutes by car from Blantyre, the largest city in Malawi, a priest and a deacon of the Missionary Priestly Fraternity of Sant’Egidio received in custody a parish dedicated to Saint Vincent De’ Paoli. It is the first parish that Sant’Egidio is asked to
take care of in Africa.
The priest is Fr. Ernest Kafunsa, a Malawian, to whom the parish has been assigned by the archbishop of Blantyre, Mons. Thomas Msusa. Fr. Ernest will be joined by Frank Gumbwa, he too from the little country in southern Africa.
The Church was fully packed this past December 21st to celebrate the entry of the new parish priest into his parish community. During the very festive liturgy the archbishop expressed his gratitude to Sant’Egidio for the gift bestowed upon the Church of Blantyre as well as his certainty that Fr. Ernest and Fr. Frank will be capable of expressing the paternal attitude and closeness to the poor that they learned and experienced during their training.
The mission of our two friends in Mpemba is clearly a challenging one. The parish’s territory is rather large, straddling the urban and rural areas, and includes, in addition to the principal church, nine outposts (chapels) spread over many directions and located several kilometers
from one another.

Sunday 28 December 2014

Islamabad (Pakistan) - Sant’Egidio in prayer remembering the massacre of the innocent in Peshawar

Today, December 28th, the Christian Churches of the West and of the Orient remember the Innocent Saints. These are the children who died in the place of the Divine Infant, young lives who were robbed of many, many years in an orgy of blood and in a delirium of power.
It is appropriate today to remember once more the children, the adolescents (and the teachers) who were killed a little more than ten days ago in the Peshawar massacre, in that temple of the future
represented by a school. During those days, candle light marches took place and street prayers were seen all over Pakistan. It was a public remembrance felt in the whole country, celebrated by Christians and Muslims together.
The local community of Sant’Egidio also wanted to live that memory. As we can read from the Community’s website, “at the end of the prayer in the Fatima Church of Islamabad, a candle light march, opened by the children of the School of Peace of Sant’Egidio proceeded through the streets of the neighborhood where some Muslim students of the Islamic Ideology Council joined the procession”. In the city square in Sarghoda as well “many lights were lit, one for each of the lives broken by the violence” that tragically runs through Pakistan like it did two thousand years ago in Bethlehem. 

Wednesday 17 December 2014

Niamey, Niger - Sant’Egidio’s friendship with minors in prison

One of the most severe challenges that correctional systems of African countries have to address is the issue of minors held in prison.
Living conditions in African jails are already very burdensome for anyone. They include overcrowding, precarious health standards, restrictions on access to food, soap and
clothing, and a certain weakness of available judicial guarantees. For the small population of minors held in African prisons these conditions are even more harsh and penalizing.
What is often missing is a pillar of judicial civilization: the acknowledgment that the minor, even if he has made mistakes, is an inmate with whom one needs to relate in a different manner and whose detention must provide for school attendance and tend towards rehabilitation. What is missing is a different outlook that is open to the future and that may point young people who are disenchanted or desperate in new directions, that may create a horizon and relationships for a humanity that is still childlike, deprived of a normal affective fabric.
It is on this frontier that the African communities of Sant’Egidio curry out their commitment in the minors’ wings of African penitentiaries. It is what the community of Niamey, in Niger, does - for example - as we can see from the Community’s website,www.santegidio.org. We can read that “living conditions in the penitentiary of Niamey are extremely precarious. Inmates, some of whom are extremely young, lack practically everything, from clothes to soap. Food is in short supply as well.”
On Saturday mornings however, with the arrival of their friends from the Community, the outlook changes for those Nigerian kids. “Every visit is a precious opportunity to speak and describe one’s problems, but also to rediscover the beauty of being together: each week the unavoidable football match and the lunch, brought in from outside, which marks a big difference from the everyday menu. Friendship changes people, it alleviates suffering and, awaiting for the following Saturday, allows people to dream of a better life.”

Friday 12 December 2014

Rome, Italy - The relics of the three Xaverian sisters killed in September in Burundi are delivered to Saint Bartholomew

This past Friday, in Rome, in the Basilica of Saint Bartholomew on Tiber Island, a ceremony took place for the delivery of a few objects that had belonged to the three Italian Xaverian Missionaries Sisters of Mary slain this past September in Kamenge, an low-income neighborhood in the periphery of Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi.
Bernardetta Boggian, Lucia Pulici, and Olga Raschietti, all of them elderly, died in the heart
of that Africa to whom they had dedicated their life of mission, helping the last ones until the very end, victims of a crime that has not yet been explained and maybe will never be fully explained.
The three sisters worked with the Xaverian missionaries in the parish of Saint Guido Maria Conforti, promoting the reconciliation among ethnic groups, opening work training laboratories, for the youth and the women of that place. Pope Francis, in remembering their “tragic death” had wished that “the spilled blood would become a seed of hope to build an authentic brotherhood among people.”
The whole life of Bernardetta, Lucia and Olga was a sign of brotherhood, a choice to integrate with God’s people to whom they were sent, to the point of assimilating their language and, with it, their suffering and hopes. Among the mementos that were delivered to the Basilica which safeguards the memories of the witnesses of faith of the twentieth and twenty-first century is the small catechism book in Swahili of sister Olga. She wrote: “In my service as a catechist I meet many young people, adults, children who desire to know Jesus and prepare to receive him in their hearts. They too discover that living in God’s will gives peace and serenity in confronting life.” Also included was sister Bernardetta’s Kirundi version of the Lord’s Prayer and the cross and rosary of sister Lucia which reflect the three sisters’ compassion, i.e. willingness to suffer together with the people of the Great lakes region who are being overwhelmed in these years by the demons of ethnic and predatory violence. Sister Bernardetta had said: “We are happy to be a Church which, sustained by the Gospel, announces, denounces, serves, comforts, and remains the point of reference for all of the people. The gratitude showed to us by the people because we stand by them
even in the face of the current difficulties gives us joy”.
Their bodies were buried in African land as they had wished. Sister Lucia had written: “I have already warned: if I die, leave me there. I have always desired to die in Africa in order to be resurrected on the last day together with the African people, the people to whom the Lord has sent me”. Their memory transcends boundaries and time and becomes a call to love and to the giving of oneself. The website of the Xaverian missionaries states: “The assassin did not take anything away from Lucia and the other sisters, did not truncate their mission but instead brought it to fruition. He allowed them to say the last word, to give their life all the way to the end. He thought he was stealing their life but they had already donated it”.

Wednesday 10 December 2014

Marco Impagliazzo elected again as President of the Community of Sant'Egidio

Sunday December 7th Marco Impagliazzo was re-elected President of the Community of Sant'Egidio. 
Professor of contemporary history at the University for Foreigners of Perugia, Italy,
incumbent President of the Community, Impagliazzo was chosen with a broad consensus of the 220 delegates of the different families of Sant'Egidio spread worldwide. 
The electoral assembly was held both “live”, in Rome, both in connection, via streaming, with many Italian, European, African America and Asian cities. A procedure that reflects the growth of the Community, started in Rome in 1968 by Andrea Riccardi and now spread throughout the continents.
Thanking the assembly that had renewed its mandate, Marco Impagliazzo announced he would keep going on his service along the path indicated by Pope Francis in his recent visit to Sant’Egidio heart in Trastevere, the path of the three “p” (prayer, poor, peace).