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E-DIALOGUE cmis

Conference Mondiale Instituts Seculiers

Nr 5 year 2010

CONTENTS The president’s letter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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The Life of the Church: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Exposition of the Holy Shroud The World Day of Prayer for Vocations Apostolic journey to Portugal- Fatima

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The Life of CMIS:. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Executive Council meeting How to become a member of CMIS

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The Life of Institutes:. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Figlie della regina degli Apostoli Oblatas Diocesanas Male Missionaries of the Kingship Oblatas franciscanas COMI Khristusa Krola Misioneras apostolicas de la caridad Volontarie della carità Female Missionaries of the Kingship Oblatos diocesanos Priest Missionaries of the Kingship CIIS Additional information from COMIS

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Testimonials . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Missionary journey to Roraima The weight of words I will play the ten string harp Letter from Sierra Leone

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Gleaning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . In memory of Oscar Romero

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Urgent announcement We are finally able to offer you access to our new website, which has been revisited and redesigned. What we now need is your collaboration: please access cmis-int.org and double check the information about your own institute. If information has to be added or corrections made, please send your input to cmisroma@tin.it as quickly as possible. Thank you!

President’s letter TIME OF CRISIS, TIME OF FAITH This issue of e-dialogue comes your way at a difficult moment. Yes, the times we are living are difficult indeed. The effects of the economic and moral crisis continue to be experienced throughout the world and great are the sufferings of the persons and the families we see in our respective countries. Far, far away seems to be the horizon of any return to normality. At the same time, within the Church herself and even though we are in the time of Easter, it seems like the ‘via crucis’ of the passion continues to unfold due to the terrible scandal of sexual abuses, which touches us directly as members of a Church of saints and sinners. What should our response be as consecrated seculars? First of all, indepth reflection on all levels; reflection that must be enlightened by faith in the Lord. Reflection and faith enabling us to understand that fragility and inclination to sin are ever-present elements of our human nature. Yes, we do embody a treasure in a vase of clay. And each human being is like this; created and chosen by God, but weak and a sinner. Reflection which seeks not refuge in facile lament, but with words of faith voices what His Holiness Benedict XVI so strongly expressed in his letter to the Catholics of Ireland: “I firmly believe in the healing power of His sacrificial love”. Second of all, our word must not be different from that of the Church in the person of the Holy Father: be vigilant so this does not happen; block evil swiftly, exaggerate in charity and compassion towards the victims. And yet the greatest response we can give is our holiness of life. This is the best possible response to the crisis of the world and the scandals in the Church. . .our mission in the world situates us in a privileged position and place for bearing witness to this holiness of life. May our life be a manifestation of the words of Paul: “. . .however great the number of sins committed, grace was even greater” (Rm 5:20)

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The life of the church THE EXPOSITION OF THE HOLY SHROUD Ten years after the Jubilee Exposition in 2000, the Holy Shroud will once again be exposed in the Turin cathedral from 10 April to 23 May 2010. For the first time it will be possible to view the Holy Shroud after the conservation work done on it back in 2002. New and abounding with useful information will be the itinerary leading the way to the actual sight of the Shroud, including heretofore unpublished high definition imagery. Reservations are required to view the Shroud and may be made by contacting the call center (toll free number 008000SINDONE, or 0114399901 when using a mobile phone). On the days when the exposition is open there will also be an ‘immediate’ reservation service (for same day visits) at a reception area installed in Piazza Castello, which is in the vicinity of the cathedral. Utmost attention will be reserved to the needs of the infirm, the disabled, and both religious and diocesan pilgrimages. The Exposition of the Holy Shroud will be accompanied by a series of ecclesial and cultural events under preparation by the organizing committee. The Holy Father will be Turin during the Exposition (Sunday 2 May) and will celebrate Mass in Piazza San Carlo.

THE DAY OF VOCATIONS 25 APRIL 2010 - THE IV SUNDAY OF EASTER was the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. In keeping with tradition, the Holy Father sent us a message and we would like to offer some excerpts from it.

l Theme: Witness awakens vocations. […] In the Old Testament the prophets knew that they were called to witness by their own lives to the message they proclaimed, and were prepared to face misunderstanding, rejection and persecution. The task which God entrusted to them engaged them fully, like a “burning fire” in the heart, a fire that could not be contained (cf. Jer 20:9). As a result, they were prepared to hand over to the Lord not only their voice, but their whole existence. In the fullness of time, Jesus, sent by the Father (cf. Jn 5:36), would bear witness to the love of God for all human beings, without distinction, with particular attention to the least ones, sinners, the outcast and the poor. Jesus is the supreme Witness to God and to his concern for the salvation of all. At the dawn of the new age, John the Baptist, by devoting his whole life to preparing the way for Christ, bore witness that the promises of God are fulfilled in the Son of Mary of Nazareth. When John saw Jesus coming to the river Jordan where he was baptizing, he pointed him out to his disciples as “the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29). His testimony was so effective that two of his disciples, “hearing him say this, followed Jesus” (Jn 1:37). E-DIÁLOGUE • Nr 5 year 2010

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[…] A fundamental element, one which can be seen in every vocation to the priesthood and the consecrated life, is friendship with Christ. Jesus lived in constant union with the Father and this is what made the disciples eager to have the same experience; from him they learned to live in communion and unceasing dialogue with God. If the priest is a “man of God”, one who belongs to God and helps others to know and love him, he cannot fail to cultivate a deep intimacy with God, abiding in his love and making space to hear his Word. Prayer is the first form of witness which awakens vocations. Like the Apostle Andrew, who tells his brother that he has come to know the Master, so too anyone who wants to be a disciple and witness of Christ must have “seen” him personally, come to know him, and learned to love him and to abide with him […] Every priest, every consecrated person, faithful to his or her vocation, radiates the joy of serving Christ and draws all Christians to respond to the universal call to holiness. Consequently, in order to foster vocations to the ministerial priesthood and the consecrated life, and to be more effective in promoting the discernment of vocations, we cannot do without the example of those who have already said “yes” to God and to his plan for the life of each individual. Personal witness, in the form of concrete existential choices, will encourage young people for their part to make demanding decisions affecting their future. Those who would assist them need to have the skills for encounter and dialogue which are capable of enlightening and accompanying them, above all through the example of life lived as a vocation Benedict XVI

l Apostolic journey to Portugal- Fatima The Virgin Mary came from heaven to remind us of Gospel truths that constitute for humanity – so lacking in love and without hope for salvation – the source of hope. To be sure, this hope has as its primary and radical dimension not the horizontal relation, but the vertical and transcendental one. The relationship with God is constitutive of the human being, who was created and ordered towards God; he seeks truth by means of his cognitive processes, he tends towards the good in the sphere of volition, and he is attracted by beauty in the aesthetic dimension. Consciousness is Christian to the degree to which it opens itself to the fullness of life and wisdom that we find in Jesus Christ. The visit that I am now beginning under the sign of hope is intended as a proposal of wisdom and mission. From a wise vision of life and of the world, the just ordering of society follows. Situated within history, the Church is open to cooperating with anyone who does not marginalize or reduce to the private sphere the essential consideration of the human meaning of life. The point at issue is not an ethical confrontation between a secular and a religious system, so much as a question about the meaning that we give to our freedom. What matters is the value attributed to the problem of meaning and its implication in public life. (…)Living amid a plurality of value systems and ethical outlooks requires a journey to the core of one’s being and to the nucleus of Christianity so as to reinforce the quality of one’s witness to the point of sanctity, and to find mission paths that lead even to the radical choice of martyrdom. E-DIÁLOGUE • Nr 5 year 2010

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The life of CMIS The Executive Council of CMIS met at the La Salle Residence in Rome from 18 to 21 March and dealt with a very full agenda. After a detailed presentation of all the work that had been done since the previous meeting of the Council last year, the president called on his fellow Council members to focus their close attention on the following items: the reform of the CMIS Statutes; the preparation of the next General Assembly and a study congress to take place before it; the creation and launching of a new and indepth studies oriented publication; the updating and restyling of the CMIS website, which the Council members were able to see and is about to go on-line for one and all. Regarding the issue of the Statutes, there was an interesting encounter with Fr. Paciolla, undersecretary of the Congregation and an expert in canon law, who offered input for a reading of the norms and their interpretation in full respect for the ongoing journey of entities like CMIS, which he defined as entities of communion and not governance. With respect to the new publication the president organized a very interesting seminar with the presence of several experts and university professors. The exchange of views that took place with the Council members provided stimuli and promising prospects for CMIS to be able to continue being a leader in the formation journey underway in its member institutes. Regarding the Congress it was decided to set up an organizing committee that will collaborate closely with Ewa Kusz, receive suggestions from Council members, and work out the derails of both the theme and the working method. Lastly, the General Assembly. The Executive Council decided this Assembly will be celebrated in Assisi, a most suggestive venue rich in spirituality. The dates are 23-39 July 2012, and the Assembly will be preceded by a Congress. Let us already begin preparing for this event with our prayers and begin reflecting on the themes as they are brought to our attention.

l How to become a member of CMIS We think it would be important to recall some useful information about how secular institutes of pontifical and diocesan right can become members of CMIS: Initial membership: Written request made by the president general of the Institute indicating acceptance of the CMIS Statutes (art, 3 of the Statutes); Payment of the membership fee (set by the Executive Council; cf. article 15 of the Statutes).

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Enclosed with the request are to be: a)

a copy of the institute’s decree of erection issued by the competent authority (diocesan Ordinary or the Holy See).

b)

a brief illustration of the institute, with basic information such as: headquarters; diffusion; number of members; membership of the Council; name and address of the person to whom correspondence is to be send; e-mail address; website; language preferred for correspondence.

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the date of the most recent elective assembly.

Notified to the president general following the request for membership will be the exact amount of the relative fee. Renewal of membership: request for renewal, indicating the number of members payment of the membership fee for the year in question. Unless a waiver is granted by the Executive Council, non payment of the membership fee excludes an institute from membership.

The life of the Institutes l Figlie della Regina egli Apostoli (FRA) Italy On Saturday and Sunday, 10-11 April 2010, this institute organized two day vocation orientation encounters in three different venues in Italy. The theme of the encounter was “WE HAVE FOUND THE MESSIAH”, and it stemmed from the theme chosen for the 2010 World Day of Prayer for Vocations. Each two day encounter will be followed by theme refresher appointments on different dates from one venue to another. The three venues for the encounters were: Affi (Vr), Florence, Palermo

l Oblatas Diocesanas - Argentina Change of President General Buenos Aires: The Secular Institute of the Diocesan Oblates met in ordinary general assembly and elected their leaders for the period from February 2010 to February 2013. Elected to the office of president general was Rosa Estela Giachetti, while Matilde Germanovich was elected vice president general and directress of formation. The directress for the mission is Margarita Carrizo, and the directress for administration and poverty is Maria Isabel Iannizzotto. We wish them all the best in the work awaiting them. E-DIÁLOGUE • Nr 5 year 2010

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l Male Missionaries of the Kingship of Christ (Italy) This institute is organizing a Time of searching – a proposal for those who wish to reflect on their vocation Proposed to this end is an orientation course for a choice of life; in other words, an occasion to learn about a particular form of consecrated life to which people are called to live as laypersons in their own family and in the exercise of their daily jobs and professions, present with a new heart and a new spirit in every ambit of life and in all its diverse situations. This course will take place during three weekend encounters scheduled as follows: 1-3 October 2010: A life proposal January 2011: The call March 2011: The Beatitudes Welcome to attend the encounters are all young persons between the ages of 20 and 35.

l Oblatas Franciscanas, Mexico This institute celebrated its General Assembly from 28 to 31 March 2010.

l COMI

Italy

On 12 March Giovanna Cl. went to Kinshasa accompanied by Andreina. Together with Antonietta and the two local COMI she continues to carry out a far from easy mission in a country where the material and spiritual needs of the poorest of the poor are always enormous. Giovanna B. an Auxiliary of COMIS, also went to Kinshasa. Andreina and Giovanni returned to Italy at the end of March.

l Khristusa Króla (Poland) poses an open question : “Do you know you can serve God as a consecrated layperson in the world? If you are striving to understand this way of life and would like to give yourself entirely to God while remaining a layperson we invite you to a PRAYER encounter where you will have an opportunity to learn more about this specific vocation in an atmosphere of oration. Date of the encounter: beginning: - 19 June 2010 (Saturday), 09.30; conclusion: 20 June 2010 (Sunday) 13:00. Place: The “Emmaus” Center Present will be Fr. Dr. Peter Walkiewicz and members of the Secular Institute Khristusa Króla

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l Misioneras Apostolicas De La Caridad -Spain Accompanied by the prayers of so many people, our friends joyfully celebrated their elective assembly from 21 to 28 February 2010. After intense work and deep reflection on the charism and the life of the Institute, Mercedes Moratinos Torres was elected to the office of president general.

l Volontarie della carità- Italy In preparation for the upcoming Assembly, held at San Donà on Saturday 17 April was a zonal encounter of the institute as part of each year’s ongoing formation programme. Present were both Volunteers and Associates. “Quite naturally”, said the institute’s vice president, “this encounter had a special focus of attention, that being reflection on the institute’s emerging problems. The encounter was well attended, intense due to the fact that there really never is enough time to do everything you would like to do, and as joyful as a family encounter always is”. The elective General Assembly of the Secular Institute Volontarie della Carità will take place from 31 July to 5 August 2010 at Camposampiero in the province of Padua (Italy). The Assembly theme will be: “Rediscover our roots in order to respond to the challenges faced by people today”. It will be preceded by the annual retreat reserved to the members of the Institute (associate members and Volunteers).

l Female Missionaries of the Kingship - Italy This year the institute is living a very special moment with the Assemblies of the two Zones, Italy and the USA, and the General Assembly scheduled to take place at La Verna from 21 to 27 August. This is something that happens in the life of the Institute once every twenty years when the different mandates of the Zones (4 years) and the Central Council (5 years) coincide. We look upon this as an event of extraordinary grace insofar as the vast majority of the Missionaries are involved together in projecting the institute into the future. In fact, the Assembly is the most meaningful moment of verification and project-thrust within the fraternal community in the light of the institute’s charism. The Word of God accompanies us and once again propels us to tackle the challenges of history, the challenges of the world and the Church today, opening our heart to the mission and revisiting the institute’s structure and life in the light of that Word: “Duc in altum”. In fact, the theme of the Mission, the selfsame heart of our charism, will unify the journey traveled by the three assemblies and guide us in the newness of the Spirit, well aware that the charism is not a fossil, but a living organism capable of ever new and creative developments.

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l Oblatos diocesanos -Argentina This institute will hold a formation encounter for its members on 5-6 June at the Padre Elizalde Center in the city of Resistencia.

l Priest Missionaries of the Kingship – Italy This institute’s Ongoing Formation Commission has prepared a series of work sheets on “the virtue of faith in the life relations of a priest” to be used for the group’s monthly encounters in 2010. This material focuses on the following themes: 1) “Faith without hope: a troubled priest?” 2) “Life without faith: a civil servant priest?” 3) “Faith without life: an intimist priest?” 4) “Word without faith: a priest-speaker?” 5) “Faith without prophecy: a shortsighted priest?” 6) “Faith without risk: a solitary priest?” As the titles indicate, these work sheets are most stimulating because they begin with a question that touches the concrete experience of priests and invites them to undertake selfassessment relative to their ministerial service, pastoral choices, language used in the communication of the faith, and relationship with both the world and history.

l CIIS – Italian Conference of Secular Institutes CIIS will hold its elective General Assembly at Sassone(Rom) on 8-9 May 2010 and will deal with the theme : “WE CITIZENS OF THE WORLD: Inculturation – Discernment – Formation”. During the morning of the first day Giorgio Mazzola will deliver a presentation on the topic “With the world in our heart: the journey of Secular Institutes”.

l Course for formators Scheduled to take place in 4-6 June 2010 at the Institute of Maria Bambina is a CIIS sponsored course for formators on the theme: “The formator accompanies in welcoming, living, and reviving the gift of the call”.

l KKIS

Polish Conference of Secular Institutes

The meeting of the KKIS Executive Council was held at Czerna on 27 April 2010 and planned the following activities: A course for formators during four weekends over 2 years and focusing especially on themes of human formation. A symposium in the fall of 2011 on the theme of secularity beginning from the spirituality of the Incarnation. E-DIÁLOGUE • Nr 5 year 2010

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Prepare a data base of psychologists who could be of use to secular institutes for diagnostic, therapeutic and formation purposes. Strive to make it possible for KKIS to take part in the councils and commissions of the Polish Episcopal Conference, especially the council for the laity and the apostolate commission.

l COMIS – Mexican Conference of Secular Institutes Please note that at the recent COMIS assembly Maricela Zarate also became a member of the newly elected council, together with Cristina Ventura (vice president), Laura de Leon (secretary), Irma de la Garza Quintanilla, Ana Maria Quiles, and Yolanda Escobar

Testimonials l Missionary journey to Roraima The Brazilian State of Roraima was recently very much at the center of attention on the part of national mass media because of the decision by the Federal Supreme Court to formally and legally recognize Raposa Serra do Solda as Indigenous Land. This was a debate connected with several important issues such as the internationalization of Amazzonia (humankind’s green lung), national sovereignty, and the right of indigenous peoples to live in their ancestral territories in peace?. Discussion on these matters highlighted the long standing conflicts between the huge farm estate holders and the indigenous peoples, between regional political action and what is done by the Catholic Church, which is often criticized and even persecuted because it defends the rights of those who have no voice: the ‘Indios’, the rural smallholders and workers in urban areas. Roraima is in the very middle of the Amazon forest in northern Brazil and is much like a vast mosaic of cultures and ethnic diversities formed through an historical process that began early in the XVIII century. Nowadays living side by side with the local people in this territory are many migrants and children of migrants from various Brazilian states, especially those in the northeast and south of the nation. Just as in an immense mosaic, nature also helps to form the Roraima ‘scenario’: woodlands, mountains, virgin forests, lakes, streams and fresh waterways like the impressive Rio Branco, a clear water river which crosses the entire state before becoming one of the most important affluents of the Rio Negro. This great festivity of diversity projected for us by such a range of animal and plant life is often suffocated by individual and egoistic interests, which not only damage the environment, but also deny to human beings their own originality, culture and even existence or survival. In effect, at times it seems easier to welcome and admire the variety of nature than to welcome and admire the diversity of man.

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I too come from Roraima, from which I took my leave some eight years ago to pursue my vocation as a Scalabrini secular missionary. During these years I was able to take some exodus-like steps in my life, journeying as a migrant among migrants in the following of Jesus in consecrated life with the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, which I pronounced at Solothurn, Switzerland, in 2005. On that same day I received my first missionary mandate, which today calls me to live in San Paolo at the International Formation Center for Young Scalabrini. At this international center we share the thirst and the searching of young people, who do have so many resources and expectations, but are at times oppressed by the difficulties encountered in finding a job and disoriented by the frenetic and piecemeal pace of city life. Just as if we were in a laboratory we make an effort to live ready acceptance of diversity, beginning from the experience inherent in the fact that first of all it is God who welcomes and loves each one of us, endowing our existence with sense and meaning. During these years I have had opportunities to meet immigrants and refugees at the ‘Casa do Migrante’ of the Scalabrini missionaries, where I held courses in Portuguese. An additional occasion for living collaboration with the missionaries was at the Cristoforo Colombo Institute, where I taught religion to the children living in that shelter and who come from difficult family situations in the poorest neighborhoods. These children bear the burden of so many wounds and sufferings, but are also so full of life and eager for love. It is a great gift and grave responsibility to be able to help them cultivate a sense of trust and hope in God and others so they can build a future of their own. I have a college degree in Portuguese and for two years have been working on a masters degree in social communications. I am now working on my dissertation, which is entitled: “The Indigenous Peoples in the Mass Media”, and in it I am studying the difficult situation of the Indios in Roraima. From the dawn of colonization to today they have been voiceless people, men without any right to land. There is no room for their point of view in the mass media, and what we know about them comes from others; for example, politicians, wealthy landowners and the mass media. Likewise in very much this same condition are many other minorities with their distinctive diversities, including immigrants, whose image is often pieced together on the basis of communication driven by political and economic interests. The Amazon region, where I was born and raised, and the megalopolis of San Paolo, where I was sent as a missionary, are two very different concrete life scenarios, but both are marked by clashing and distressing realities, which call for responses consistent with the Christian faith: the option for the less fortunate and those with no rights, the quest to live the Gospel in situations of social injustice, and the choice of fraternity with all. Following one’s vocation of consecration to God does not mean taking our distance from historical reality of becoming indifferent to it, but it does mean letting the protagonist of my and our history be God the Father Himself. Through us as well does He wish to bring His Kingdom of justice and peace into being. By embracing His plan of love I can deliver unto Him my life, my people, humankind at large, and all the situations of injustice that cry out for and need a radical evangelical response. The total offering of myself and the world to Him opens the way to the possibility to take part in the unstoppable movement of the love E-DIÁLOGUE • Nr 5 year 2010

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we receive each day in the Eucharist, a movement of transformation that can penetrate everywhere and give new light to each day’s deeds and events. During these years of my missionary journey I have already been able to contemplate many signs of God’s presence. One of these was the visit I recently made to Roraima with four other missionaries to attend a huge youth congress organized by the diocese. When sharing the direct experience of migrants in the spirituality of the exodus a person never returns to his/her homeland as he/she was before. This is exactly what I experienced. My visit home was no longer an individual fact, but a community mandate, a ‘sending forth’ as community. The reception on the part of my family and the local church likewise expanded to embrace my community at large: an expression of the great love of God that unites us above and beyond blood and cultural ties so we may become His divine family in the diversity of our gifts. We encountered a living Church, a youthful and active Church, which despite challenges and contradictions is bearing witness to a missionary dimension in all directions, in the regional capital as well as in the small towns scattered all over the immense territory of Roraima. This too is the fruit of the presence of God, who leads the history of its people. The diocese has welcomed numerous missionaries from all over Brazil and the world, who are eager and willing to collaborate with the local Church. My visit to Roraima reminded me of an encounter some years ago with the diocesan bishop, Most Rev. Roque Paloschi, which had a deep impact on me. While the bishop was talking with me about the missionaries in the diocese and the beautiful work they were doing, he added: “My daughter, our land has already opened its arms to many male and female missionaries, who have given and continue to give their lives for the Kingdom of God. You are our first little response saying we too can give out of our poverty. Follow the road the Lord has shown you and for which He has called you. But always remember to seek holiness; this is what God wants of us”. I received these wise words as a missionary mandate with the same profound joy that had led me to leave Roraima in order to travel not only with my people, but with all peoples, and with a universal heart take on the pain and the hopes of the world, convinced that He, Jesus Christ, is the Lord of each person’s history. He is more than ever present with His Holy Spirit, the creative love of God, who wishes to bring together all peoples into one family united in diversity, and He asks us to be willing to do His will each and every day. Elisangela 1 For more information about the formal recognition of the Indigenous Land Raposa-Serra do Sol consult: www.socioambiental.org/ins/esp/raposa;www.survival.it/notizie/4357. Taken from: Sulle strade dell’esodo, n. 1 –

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l The Weight of Words Coming from Basel is this testimonial of a Swiss friend, Anne Claire Galli, who works as a volunteer at the Ecumenical Pastoral Service for asylum seekers, where we missionaries offer our services. In all simplicity she narrates what transpired during a ‘town meeting’ organized in her neighborhood by the municipal authorities. The local residents had been invited to this encounter so the authorities could explain about the opening of a new shelter for foreigners seeking political asylum in Switzerland. “I arrived a bit late and the discussion had already begun. Some people were criticizing the hypothesis of opening yet another shelter/reception center for asylum seekers so close to the one already open. Immediately evident in the wake of these critical comments was an atmosphere of hostility against refugees: the seemingly endless sequence of negative comments helped to fortify the climate of open opposition. The representatives of both the municipal authorities and the police chief therefore took time to illustrate the situation in a patient, calm and tactful way, and explain why it was necessary to open another reception center in our neighborhood. Needed, however, was greater clarity. Some people erroneously interpreted the authorities’ proposal to use private security guards (“Securitas”) to control the area around the two shelters as proof of how dangerous the refugees were. And yet the real aim of the authorities was to “reassure the local population and defuse fear or apprehension”. The atmosphere in the meeting room seemed to be getting worse and very much against the asylum seekers until one person, she too a bit worried and concerned, took the floor and asked those present if they had really had any concrete negative experiences with the refugees and what those experiences had been. Those present who had been against the reception center, as well as quite vociferous in so saying, came down to just two people: a woman who complained about the “bother of having received proposals of marriage from refugees when passing by their house”, and another women who said she was “disturbed by the noise of a family of asylum seekers living close to her home”. Other people gradually spoke up to narrate encounters they had had with these foreigners, some of which had proven to be very enriching exchanges of views, and at times even turned into friendship. Others said they were curious to know “how they could enter into contact with the asylum seekers” and “how to get to know them”. Someone then launched the idea of organizing something together with them during the traditional neighborhood block party in the fall. The same person who had asked what there was really to fear from the refugees then proposed a new encounter with the city authorities and the police a few months after the opening of the new reception center. This would be an opportunity to take stock and perhaps find out that living close to one another is not as terrible as people feared, and make an effort to solve any problems together. The idea was unanimously approved and the encounter came to an end in a much better atmosphere than at the beginning. The voices loud and aggressive at the beginning were no longer to be heard: they had gradually calmed down, perhaps because they realized the majority was not on their side.

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Strong indeed was the experience of seeing the weight positive words and witness can have against fear, xenophobia and the ensuing aggressiveness. Certainly, this positive influence depends on each person and appeals to each single voice. When aggressiveness is still in the form of words is when people can and must speak out; afterwards it becomes much more difficult and often rife with risk. It is to be hoped that there will be possibilities for the local people and the asylum seekers to engage in true encounters. I am convinced that such encounters will help to diminish feelings of apprehension and fear. Felicina Taken from: Sulle strade dell’esodo n°4 December 2009

l I will play the ten string harp I will play the ten string harp after ten, twenty, thirty and even more years of consecration! It is important to rediscover the musical soul we consecrated laypersons have: each consecrated person sings, plays and dances, thanks the Lord for the years of life, and each day discovers the gift of the vocation, a great gift indeed. All our years and all events must resound as a hymn of praise, even if some of the strings are out of tune – little and big worries, trials, disappointments – and which we can get back in tune with the grace of God. Such things must not get us bogged down, must not make us lose our joyfulness. Quite often, on the contrary, as years pass we will find ourselves praising God precisely for such things, and not for others that may weigh upon us, may make us feel low. On the basis of our daily reading of the Word of God we know so very well that the true biblical attitude is happiness, joy and exaltation: a profound and authentic attitude like that of our father and mentor Don Bosco. We can draw this happiness not from ourselves, but from faith in God, who gives it to us in patient and vigilant prayer. This happiness is the deep secret of the consecrated life, the sign that our relationship with God, through the mediations of the Institute, and with our neighbor is a good one. Certainly, it is much easier to sing at the outset of our journey of consecration, but gradually we become short of breath in our singing and must ask the Lord to grant us the same grace that enabled Mary to sing with such exuberance at the birth of Jesus when Simeone prophesized the sword, when Jesus left home and embarked upon His public life, and when she stood at the foot of the cross. It was because of this grace that Mary never lost the absolute resolve of her first ‘yes’ and never thought she had gotten everything wrong when she failed to understand the Father’s will. Mary must be our model at all times. Upon her must we look in order to draw strength and courage, to learn faith and humility in prayer. The Father wants our entire being to vibrate for Him in song and joy, and He is always there waiting for us, just like the father waited for the son who had left home. He is always there to take us in and help us. As Don Bosco was wont to say, our happiness is founded on

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the Father’s first loving us and on the awareness that the Christ whom we follow sang before the Passion, conquered sin and death by abandoning Himself to the Father. Yes, the singing of Psalm 118 is followed by the anguish which turned into a cry: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by. Nevertheless, let it be as you, not I, would have it” (Mt 26:39). Singing is always the same soul of Christ. Therefore, what can fill us with apprehension and weaken our song of praise to the Lord? God trains my hands for the war (cf. Ps 144) of faith, sacrifice and dedication; nothing will shadow the joy of singing if the Lord is with me! This happiness coming to us from our trust in God is not something good for ourselves alone, something good that helps us surmount difficulties and trials with peace of mind. It is also our mission. Those who live side by side with us, our family, our colleagues, and the sisters of our group expect something of us. We can be of help to them especially with the witness of the serenity of the biblical soul, or else we can disappoint them with our aloofness, our lack of trust, our bad moods. Especially in this world where conflict, violence, incredulity and indifference seem to reign supreme, we consecrated persons must play all the harp strings in order to sound and give the hope coming from God. In the group as such, and especially for those who are a bit older, bearing witness to serenity and joy despite aches, pains and difficulties, bearing witness to the conviction that we are in the place desired for us by God for our good and the good of others, helps to instill hopefulness in our fellow sisters, especially the younger ones coming face to face with initial difficulties in this wondrous adventure. Let’s not muffle their enthusiastic singing, but join in with them, thanking the Lord for the gift of the vocation and living it each day with the same astonishment Mary voices in the Magnificat over the great things God brings about in us every day. We will thereby be faithful to our ‘yes’ and help our sisters live their ‘yes’ with fidelity, and our singing will most certainly attract other young people who may want to discover the wellspring of this happiness and draw from it. Dora Taken from: Crescere n. 2, April 2010

l Letter from Sierra Leone While in Sierra Leone last year, Renato wrote this letter for Lent. Considering the very vivid picture he depicts, and which is so tragically real today as well, his best wishes for a good Lent certainly apply for this year as well. Dear friends, When I take that ten minute walk to get to work each morning I have to go through a small portion of this outlying neighborhood full of simple abodes with a tin roof and walls made with blocks of dried mud covered with a thin layer of cement: two or three tiny ‘rooms’ inside, 2x3 meters, 3x4 meters at the most.

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Privacy? In effect, daily life unfolds in the streets. When I leave at 7:30 in the morning some people are already heading towards the fields, others are already washing themselves, which means they draw water from a well and then pour it into large pails. Children wash themselves as nude as mother nature made them. No embarrassment at all, and they often happily wave to passersby with soap suds all over them. Teenagers and above whose bodies have already filled out either go into separate shower/toilet huts with their pail of water, or else cover their strategic parts with large towels and then look like contortionists as they wash themselves where they stand. In any case, it’s really incredible: emerging from these hut-like abodes are clean and well dressed persons, pretty girls and handsome boys. People pass around hot coals to light up the fire under a brazier on which they heat up a sort of porridge to eat before going to school or work. People in Europe are high on privacy, but life here is lived in the open streets and quite natural is the exposition of the human body as well. Each family is what it is and can conceal nothing; there is no way for a family to be ‘on its own’. The houses are tiny and offer no protection against the heat. Food is cooked on braziers outside. On Saturdays people dedicate more time to personal cleanliness. At times I feel somewhat embarrassed as I physically pass through their daily lives, and have the impression I am violating their privacy, but I am on the street and their life is there as well. This applies up to a certain degree of wealth. I do believe that among families in the same condition there is also a certain obligation not to isolate themselves, which would be tantamount to cutting off from neighbors. And yet the farther up the social scale people advance, less do they live their lives ‘in public’. The houses are surrounded by walls and even barbed wire. They hide themselves. In some of the richer neighborhoods of many African cities it would be more appropriate to speak about bunkers and not houses. At times entire neighborhoods are turned into bunkers, with entry through well guarded gates. When the standard of living is scandalously different people have to protect themselves and they end up living in houses and neighborhoods much like fortresses. If such a scandalous difference applies between countries, the borders between them are just closed. Limping? No. Only one worn-out shoe When I walk around I try to observe people and see how they look at me. I have become part of the landscape by now, but I’m always someone better off than others. . .I’m white. One morning I crossed paths with a little girl who, at a distance, looked like she was limping. She was wearing a red hemmed blue smock, which must have once been rather elegant, but by now was just pale and not that clean. It had a few holes here and there, and just came down to her knees. On her head there was a small pot with a lid on it. Since she was limping she had to keep one hand on the pot. This hiked her smock up on one side of her body. She had a sad look in her eyes and I saw her staring at my feet, at my summer shoes, a pair of quechua, ancient Roman style open sandals I had bought in Milan. I too looked down at her feet. She wasn’t limping. The fact is that she only had footwear on one foot and that ‘footwear’ was one pitiful and shabby flip-flop that she dragged along in the E-DIÁLOGUE • Nr 5 year 2010

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dust. It would have been better for her to go barefoot, but perhaps that sole flip-flop is important for her, a sort of asset. I smile, say hello, and am embarrassed over my sandals (in pretty bad shape themselves). And yet words often serve no purpose; I just note this little fact to myself. We would like to prepare a cultural briefing for newcomers, but what’s the point of that if a person does not have eyes to see. Malnutrition? Well dressed, mobile phone ever present, expensive purse, haughty and somewhat insolent glance, stylish make-up, 20 years old?, carrying a undernourished, suffering and barely dressed child in her arms. At times it does happen – and this is not the single case – to have to treat children accompanied by well dressed adults with very little income. Down here a mobile phone costs at least $50, and $50 goes a long way in food. The father? The grandmother? The aunts? Where is the expanded African family? In this country there is no reason for malnutrition; no reason at all for families, communities or the government. Armed conflicts, the arrival of European life models and a society in transition also trigger these sorts of absurdities. We provide health care services free of charge and at times have the impression we are a convenient way out for parents, young women and entire families fast losing certain priorities. In the meantime we’ve started restructuring work on a 36 meter pavilion where we assist serious malnourished children with medical complications. At the moment this is a semipermanent structure and we’ll turn it into a permanent one. We have to finish this work before the onset of the rainy season in early May, which, according to the calendar, corresponds to the peak in undernourished children. And then people say nothing in Africa is punctual. Christmas 2008, nomads My Christmas 2008 was a bit hectic to say the least. A few days earlier there had been a ‘coup d’état’ in the neighboring country of Guinea Conakry. The President-for-life was no longer in life, the armed forces had taken control, some disorders were reported, and Physicians Without Borders (MSF) had started evacuating families. Christmas Mass lasts for three hours here, and mine was interrupted twice by telephone calls made and received on my way out of church as I tried to find out how things were going for 12 people doing what they could to get out of the country. Great was my sense of relief when they were all across the border. The good Lord Jesus will have forgiven my bad manners, will have understood me because He too was born away from home, and very soon in life had to evacuate abroad. Yellow fever. . .191,000 vaccinations in 5 days A few days before Christmas it was ascertained beyond doubt that one person had died of yellow fever. According to international regulations it suffices for the death of one person to E-DIÁLOGUE • Nr 5 year 2010

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be officially ascribed to yellow fever for mass vaccination to become compulsory, and in this case it meant 500,000 people. In the throes of checks, postponements, doubts, organizational problems, airplane delays, a truck from Burkina Faso blocked at the border, discussions with the local health board and the Ministry of Health, a cold chain found locally, many other things found or purchased on site, vehicles rented, etc, in just 5 days the MSF vaccinated 191,000 people. Yes, 191,000! On Sunday morning, the day of vaccination, I came across a mother with three proud children waving the yellow card testifying to having been vaccinated; after Mass an unknown elderly lady thanked me, and then someone else said thank you; it doesn’t hurt at all to be thanked. Once again, and it wasn’t the first time, the happy surprise to see how our black skinned friends who suffer as a result of so many prejudices, resolutely shifted into high gear and skillfully did things that in theory seemed impossible. It was also a beautiful community experience for the entire staff: everyone did his part and even more than that. At 06:00 each morning it was necessary to equip the 35 teams going out into the field with vaccines, diluents in thermal containers, syringes, disinfectants, cotton, basins, registration cards, stamps, pens, registers. At 06:00 we were all there in an assembly line to get the vehicles and trucks on the road with everything needed for the day. A bit of time to catch our breath and then back at work to unload and incinerate the refuse from the day before, load the freezers and prepare the ice for the next day, make sure all the generators and the entire cold chain was working in order to avoid having inactive vaccines and suppose we had protected people. Water This is a country which receives 3,000 millimeters of rainfall during the rainy season each year. That is an enormous amount of water. Milan must be around 1,200 millimeters. There is also underground water, but after three months without rain some shallow wells start running out of water and the lines get longer at the wells where there is water. Wells are the local cyber cafes. The fastest ones are the ones with hand pumps, while the slowest ones are those with a simple rope with a bucket on one end and no cover over the well to protect the water from dust, dirt and insects. The worse the wells are, all the more time does it take to draw water and all the more time do people have to talk, bad talk and socialize. Think positive! But it would be much better if all this exoticism and the traditional way of living were to come to an end and all people were to have water at home. There is underground water here, but during the rainy season the water is above ground, and many areas turn into swamps, with no crops to harvest and hence many undernourished people. If abundant water were to be pumped for everyone there would be no swamps and the water would remain underground, etc. In the city there are water points with long lines of people day and night. The faucets are most likely useless because they are always open. E-DIÁLOGUE • Nr 5 year 2010

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Time to take stock and provide numbers This is the time each year when we take stock and prepare reports for headquarters, for the donors who want to know how we spend the money. Now with us is Carlo Ciavoni, a journalist from the magazine ‘Venerd’, a weekly insert of the Italian daily newspaper ‘Repubblica’, and who is an envoy/invited guest of MSF Italy. It’s the time to spend hours at the computer, but also the time to look back and see if I have toiled for something or not. I have little contact with the infirm. I’m sorry about that, and numbers cannot replace physical contact, but they do help. Here are some statistics: 418,000 patients visited, which is 18,000 more than in 2007. We were up around 35,00 a month for the first two months of 2009, but those are the slowest months. 182,00 cases of malaria dealt with by local volunteers educated and trained to monitor malaria. Repeated with slight variations is what we experienced in Chad. Malaria is the ‘first killer’. It is important to win the battle against it, be as close as possible to the sick people without any barriers of distance, expense, ignorance or fear. 7,000 children admitted to pediatric treatment, 200 beds always occupied in the hospital, 9,000 transfusions despite ingrained and longstanding resistance and refusal. 40% of the deliveries we handle are at risk and fall within the category of ‘operating room’ deliveries. Many take place late and at the threshold of the survival limit. We have a team of four people dealing with statistics. At the beginning I considered this something of an exaggeration, but then I understood its usefulness; for example, understanding which grassroots structures send us the most complicated cases helps us to discover why the right response is not being given there, as well as whether or not there is some sort of elementary negligence to be corrected. When we screen the files and see how many vaccinations are regularly administered by the government, we discover how in our case there are gaps in the vaccinations of children, with relative consequences. Before long, and with the support of statistics, the problem will be raised in what people call the opportune fora, for example, government agencies, UNICEF, WHO, and if there are no reactions MSF will do something in the place of those who should do it. Threats alone quite often get things moving, get people back on their feet, trigger awareness, and put a lid on forms of corruption. Statistics on the average mortality rate of the population have been collected for the last three years, and in the area where we are at work the situation has improved considerably and is quite different compared with the rest of the country. Pray Living on the plot of land next to ours is a poor family with the poorest and most miserable hut in the whole neighborhood sitting on the top of a small incline. In the early morning I go outside, look up, and see the father of the family sitting cross legged on a mat with his head covered and wearing an old white robe. He is holding a Koran, has beads in one hand, and bends his upper body in the direction of the Mecca, which in this case is the wall of our house.

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Every morning while his four ill garbed children between the ages of 2 to 10 play around and get washed, and while his wife prepares the fire or stirs something in the pot, he prays there in total oblivion to everything around him. He follows his own internal rhythm. He’s there, but he isn’t there. He’s somewhere else. I look at him and think about my own prayer, ordinarily secluded, not in public and confused, incapable of detaching itself from reality and concentrating on the Only One. I just can’t detach myself and entrust myself. My prayer is always a sort of business deal, bargaining with time, with what I will have to get done, a constant interweaving of thoughts among what I read in the Word or may have been suggested by a commentary, personal suggestions, duties, events, grudges, passions. Public prayer, Islam, Christians Just like in Chad, it is normal here to see people praying in public also while at work, wherever they may be and always facing east, which may mean praying while they face a garage or a wall. It doesn’t matter. They pray in public at the required times wherever they are. I remember the Via Jenner sidewalk (Milan) full of people on their knees with traffic speeding by on a city avenue less than two feet from them. Matthew 6: 5-6: “And when you pray, do not imitate the hypocrites: they love to say their prayers standing up in the synagogues and at the street corners for people to see them. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you pray, go to your private room ad, when you have shut the door, pray to your Father who is in that secret place. . .” Two verses after telling them how to pray, Jesus gives the apostles the ‘Our Father’, which is the compulsory format for all prayer. I do not believe these unknown persons or colleagues I see praying in public are hypocrites. On the contrary, I think it’s necessary to do some serious thinking about the current total absence of public prayer on the part of Christians. I still recall how difficult it was in AEM to gather Christians together at least during the most important moments of the liturgical year. Only hidden presence? Only in our own room? Adequate must be the response for each time. I should be home in about three months after another year far away from home; another year given to me by the Lord as much of a gift. A good Lent to one and all, and above all Happy Easter. Taken from: Comunicare - Condividere n. 372, 2010

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SPIGOLANDO Wednesday, 24 March 2010, 30th anniversary of the martyrdom of Most Rev. Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador. In memory of him we offer this homily delivered in 1987. The poor as theological place Bishop Romero, help us to understand that the poor are the theological place where God manifests Himself and the inconsumable thorn-bush from which He speaks to us. Homily of Rev. Tonino Bello Dearest brothers and sisters, We are gathered together in this beautiful basilica of the Holy Apostles in Rome to celebrate not the exploit of man, but the exploit of God. Recalling a martyr, in fact, means to home in on the point in which the Word distends so much that its flood wave breaks through the embankments and overflows in streams of blood. Which is always the blood of Christ, and a martyr’s blood is like a sacrament of that blood. Oscar Romero, therefore, is but the breach in the dyke. The countless witnesses who have given their life for Christ, and whom we commemorate in this Paschal liturgy, are but the opening through which the God of the Alliance has the streams of His fidelity burst forth on earth in hundreds upon hundreds of rivulets. Therefore, glory, honor and blessing to the God of martyrs more than to the martyrs of God. However, if the blood of martyrs is the sacrament of Christ’s blood, it will be licit for us this evening to dwell in reverent contemplation before this blood. Just as in adoring contemplation we will soon stand before the Eucharistic chalice of the blood of Christ caused by the Word as well, which thereby becomes substance and efficacy in the celebration of the sacraments in order to bring about what it announces. This therefore is the driving theme of our reflection: the martyrdom of Romero as fruit of the Word. We will develop this theme in three distinct moments, underlying how the Word of God built up in this bishop of San Salvador the spirituality of the exodus, the spirituality of the pointed finger, and the spirituality of the suffering servant. Spirituality of the exodus Exodus from where? From the hiding place of a reassuring and intimist faith without waves. When I read about Romero’s spiritual conversion exactly ten years ago, when, in March 1977, Rev. Rutilio Grande (a priest who had chosen to work for the redemption of a world burdened by misery and suffering) was murdered with two companions of the faith, I immediately thought of a book written by von Balthasar: “Cordula, a serious case”.

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Cordula was a young woman mentioned in the legend of the 11,000 virgins. Having escaped death, when she saw her companions had been killed for the cause of Christ, she came out of the place where she had been hiding out of fear and voluntarily offered herself to the sword of her executioner. You see, Cordula (whether legendary or real is of little importance) strikes me as the archetype of Romero. Who, let’s be clear about this, was certainly prudent, but not at all fearful. He was a professor of the faith, not a confessor. He was one of those who saw an attack against the orthodoxy of Vatican Council II in the documents of Medellin and Puebla. Nor did he look with a kind eye upon the theology of liberation. He was so suspicious towards those priests who shouldered problems of the injustice and oppression lived by people that his appointment as archbishop of San Salvador in February 1977 was received with enthusiasm by all those in official positions of power. A month later, the road to Damascus When Father Rutilio fell under a hail of bullets, it was actually he who fell under the assault of the Word of God, and, just like in the case of St. Paul, “suddenly there was a light from heaven all around him”. What may well have determined his resolute passage from solidarity with power to intransigent opposition was the telephone call he received from President Molina, who, thinking he would appreciate the gesture, had been the first to inform him of the execution of Father Rutilio. His eyes and ears opened wide and he grasped the full scope of the words of Exodus: “I have seen the misery of my people. . .I have heard their cry. . .and I have come down to liberate them”. The following three years of battles until his death are linked to those biblical echoes. It suffices to read his homilies to realize how at the very roots of his change was the Word of God alone, and not the craving of someone using the oppressed in order to emerge and garner approval. From that moment on he began to live not dangerously to the point that he would have sought death by virtue of his stubbornness replete with moral tension, but most faithfully, pacing his choices and decisions according to the times of God, who, ever faithful to the Alliance, has mercy on His poor. It is about time to put an end to those self-serving speculations that make Romero a hero, but not a martyr; that present this man as swept up by ideology, but not clasped by the Spirit, and which, out of the four cardinal virtues, assert he excelled in justice but not prudence, fortitude but not temperance. Spirituality of the pointed finger In addition to the spirituality of exodus, the Word of God also constructed in the holy bishop of San Salvador the spirituality we could call that of the pointed figure, to borrow a thought from an apologia. E-DIÁLOGUE • Nr 5 year 2010

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Romero narrated this in the homily he delivered at the funeral of Father Navarro, another priest murdered in May 1977: “There was once a caravan being guided across the desert by a Bedouin. The travelers were desperate for water and looked for it in the mirages of the desert. And the guide said to them: ‘Not that way, but in this direction’. This happened several times until one of the travelers let his nerves get the better of him, pulled out a pistol and shot the guide, who, as he died, held out his arm as if to say: ‘Not that way, but in this direction’. And thus did he die, indicating the way”. Present in this apologia is the echo of a prophetic conscience that by then had taken form in Romero, and which became clearer and clearer day after day: “Thus says the Lord: cry out and have no regard. Raise your voice like a trumpet. Tell my people what their crimes are, and the house of Jacob its sins”. Romero realized there were powers in opposition to the salvation proposed by Christ and resolutely opposed them with those typical attitudes that denote the style of the early Christian martyrs: parrhesia, kàuchesis, and hope. Parrhesia is the style of he who, without being arrogant, stands tall and speaks boldly with freedom of language about his encounter with God, to whose Word he feels irrevocably consecrated. Kàuchesis is the boasting of the cross of Christ. It is living the glory of His person, His unique Lordship, which becomes the foundation and grounds of personal choices and decisions. Hope is the attitude of he who continues to sing a song of praise despite the burden of tribulations weighing upon his shoulders. It will suffice to read Romero’s homilies to realize how these three dimensions sustain his theological existence. . . .speaking out courageously and with frankness, and behind him “the greatest I” to whom he had abandoned himself, even if tremors of fear were not absent. “It’s normal”, he often said, “for our knees to shake, but at least they shake at the place where we must be”. This too is parrhesia. During his stay in Rome back in may 1979, Archbishop Romero came to this church of the Holy Apostles and going down to the crypt where the tombs of Philip and James are venerated, he asked God for the courage to die, if necessary, as the witnesses of the faith had died. One month before his death he jotted down these words in his retreat notebook: “The nuncio of Costa Rica has warned me of an imminent danger right this week[…] Unforeseen circumstances will be tackled with the grace of God. Jesus Christ helped the martyrs and, if need be, I will feel Him so very close when I will hand over my last breath to Him[…] With faith do I accept my death no matter how difficult it may be. Nor do I wish to assign it an intention for the peace of my homeland and for the growth of our Church, , as I would like to. . . […] Because the heart of Christ will know how to give it the destiny He wishes. For me it is enough to be happy and trustful, knowing with certainty that in Him are my life and my death; that despite my sins I have placed my trust in Him, and I will not remain confused; and others with greater wisdom and holiness will continue the work for the church and the homeland”. E-DIÁLOGUE • Nr 5 year 2010

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Beautiful! This is Kàuchesis. This is “nos autem gloriari oportet in cruce Domini nostri Jesu Christi”! And lastly hope, the global horizon of this spirituality we have called “of the pointed finger”, and which drives the dying Bedouin to keep on pointing the caravan in the direction of the path to follow. Perhaps hope is the word most frequently appearing on Romero’s vocabulary. As you well know, this was the last work he uttered on that Sunday, 24 March 1980, at 18:45 in the chapel of the Hospital of Divine Providence as he celebrated the Offertory: “In this chalice the wine becomes blood which was the price of salvation. May this sacrifice give us the courage to offer our blood for the justice and peace of our people. May this moment of prayer find us closely united in faith and hope”. A rifle shot ushered him into the supper of the Lord. Spirituality of the suffering servant Inspiring Romero’s choices certainly were neither the reading of Marxist writings nor the ideological transcriptions of one or another of the worse exponents of the theology of liberation, and by no means the ambiguous suggestion of the Church cornering new social space by discovering anew the needs of the poor and making instrumental use of the sufferings of the oppressed. What inspired him were assiduous meditations on the verses of the suffering servant of Yahweh. How much pain and tenderness, how much passion and courage, how much rage and prayer, how much denouncement and patience in the words of this “bishop become people”!. “We have met farmers with no land or stable work, no water, no electricity, no schools. We have met workers with no union rights and fired from factories whenever they claim them, and completely at the mercy of heartless economic calculations. We have visited the inhabitants of shanties whose misery exceeds anything imaginable, with the insult of nearby buildings. The Church of my archdiocese, the sacrament today of the suffering servant of Yahweh, has sought to become incarnate in this inhuman world”. Thereby standing out in Romero’s pastoral vision with all the clarity of biblical contours and the cogency of a commitment of ‘companionship’ and ‘consolation’ is the category of the poor, who become the architectural principle for any social renewal. “The world of the poor is the key for understanding the Christian faith […]. The poor are those who tell us what is the ‘polis’, the city, and what it means for the Church to really live in the world […]. All this not only does not distance us from our faith, but sends us back to the world of the poor as our true place!”. It would be necessary to read the entire text of the address Bishop Romero delivered at the University of Louvain when awarded a degree ‘honoris causa’ in order to grasp the full savor of the Gospel ever present in the words of this holy bishop of San Salvador: “The hope we preach to the poor is preached by us in order to restore their dignity to them and encourage them to be the direct authors of their own destiny. In brief, the Church has not only placed herself on the side of the poor, but makes them the beneficiaries of her

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mission, because as we read in Puebla, God takes their defense and loves them. […] The poor majorities of our country are oppressed and repressed day after day by economic and political structures. Ever true for us are the terrible words of the prophets of Israel. Present among us are those who sell a just man for a penny and a poor man for a pair of sandals; those who accumulate violence and looting in their palaces; those who crush the poor; those who accumulate house after house and add field after field until they occupy all the land. […] These texts of the prophets Amos and Isaiah are not voices dating back centuries. We live them when coming to us are the mothers and the brides of prisoners and men who have just disappeared, when disfigured corpses come to light in clandestine cemeteries, when murdered are those who battle for justice and peace! […] Together with the apostle John we believe Jesus is the word of life, and where there is life is where God reveals Himself. Where the poor begin to live, where the poor begin to liberate themselves, and where people are able to sit around the same table to share what they have is where the God of life is present”. Present in these words is not only the awareness that the Gospel is not a method of emancipation, but also the conviction that poverty and suffering are not just something to eliminate, but rather a reality to be assumed like the suffering servant of Yahweh. These are the coordinates that structured the martyrdom of Oscar Arnulfo Romero, at the origin of which is the Word, as is the case for all sacramental origins. And now, in the presence of the sacramental sign of the blood of this martyr, allow me to voice a prayer that may give meaning to the adoring silence we will soon reserve to the sacramental sign of the blood of Christ. We invoke you We invoke you, bishop of the poor, intrepid defender of justice, martyr of peace; obtain for us from the Lord the gift of placing His Word in first place and help us to grasp its radicality and sustain its power, also when it transcends us. Free us from the temptation to curtail it out of fear of the powerful, to domesticate it out of respect for those who command, to enfeeble it out of feat that it will involve us. Do not permit the Word of God to be polluted on our lips with the debris of ideologies. But give us a hand so we may courageously incarnate it in daily life and events, in personal and community life and events so it may thereby produce history of salvation. Help us to understand that the poor are the theological place where God manifests Himself and the burning, inconsumable thorn-bush from which He speaks. Bishop Romero, pray so out of love for them the Church of Christ does not remain silent. Implore the Spirit to pour out upon them so much parrhesia that them may finally master the subtleties of measured language and make them say ever so frankly that the arms race is immoral, that the production and trade of instruments of death is criminal, that the space shields constitute an insult to the abject misery of peoples being exterminated by hunger, and that the military facilities and activities fast encroaching this earth are the most barbarous distortion of the environment’s natural vocation.

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Bishop Romero, pray so Peter, who loved you and two months before your death encouraged you to forge ahead, may walk throughout this earth as a pilgrim of peace and daringly continue confirming brothers and sisters in the faith, in hope, in charity, and in the defense of human rights wherever they are being trampled. Bishop Romero, pray so all the bishops of this earth may become heralds of justice and workers of peace, and take on non violence as the hermeneutic criterion of their pastoral commitment, well aware that bodily safety and the prudence of the spirit are not magnitudes commensurable with one another. Bishop Romero, pray for all the peoples of the third and fourth worlds oppressed by debt. Through imploring God facilitate the remission of these inhuman burdens of slavery. Move the hearts of today’s pharaohs. Hasten the times when a new international economic order may free the world from all those who aspire to the role of God. And lastly, Bishop Romero, pray for we who are present here, so the Lord may grant us the privilege of becoming neighbor, like you, to all those who toil to live. And if suffering for the Kingdom lacerates our flesh, see to it that the stigmata left by the nails in our crucified hands may be slits through which we may already catch a glimpse of a new skies and new lands.

* Homily delivered by Rev. Tonino Bello in the basilica of the Holy Apostles on 23 March 1987, the seventh anniversary of the martyrdom of Oscar Romero.

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