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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Easter 2017

Easter 2017
Holy Saturday is a special day which I really enjoy. Special day because we wait Jesus’s Resurrection, with heart marked by the pain rooted in the Good Friday’s celebration, at the same time full of the Risen Lord's hope.
Saturday morning we experience the first real rain. This time the rain is heavy, and lasting from 6.00am to 11.00am. The lower area of Bozoum is flooded.
In the afternoon we get ready for the Great Vigil, which starts at 6.30pm ending at 10.15pm. There are so many people, and a good number of them are waiting to be baptized. The celebration begins with the blessing of the fire, and then we enter in darkness into the church with the Easter Candle. At this very moment the explosion of the song of the Exultet, an ancient hymns that announces Jesus’s Resurrection.  After the Readings, comes the great moment of baptism: more than a hundred, among children, young and adults! It is a great blessing for the Church and for the world!
Many of them show emotion, others do their best not to show tears, but for everyone and for the whole community, is a moment of joyful celebration.  When they enter the church with the white dress, the whole assembly sings: "I so kwe, Nzapa a sukula i awe, i yu Christ tongana Gbya ti i awe” (you all washed in Baptism, you are coated of Christ your Lord “.
After the Mass they go home, and as they walk down to the city, you can hear the songs which resound everywhere. Little by little the city is full of joyful songs which will last throughout the night and throughout the Easter day.
The next morning we all meet for the solemn Mass at 8.30am. The baptized are all there, beautifully shining. After the Mass, they return home, followed by friends and family, and by the corals of their own sector. It is a festival of colors, sounds, and joy. Joy that continues throughout the week, week called the Easter Octave.
During this week, the baptized come to celebrate the Mass every morning at 6.00am, proud of their white dress, but even more proud of their new dignity of being Sons of God!
Inondazione a Bozoum
l'inondation de Bozoum, la veille de Paques

Panorama della piazza della chiesa dopo la Messa Pasquale
Panoramique de la place de l'église, après la Messe de Paques

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Easter and surroundings

Easter and surroundings
While in Europe and other countries in the Northern hemisphere, Easter often coincides with the spring, here in Central Africa the Holy Week often arrives with the first rains.
After months without rain (the last we have had it was last November), after weeks of intense heat, here is finally (really finally!) the rain. Strong wind, thunder, lightning, and then here we are with the most needed rain. In a few days the landscape is transformed: from dry and arid terrain, here is the grass that grows, brushing with green the landscape. It's a marvelous sight to see how little water can create so much beauty! In addition to the grass and the flowers are blooming, also... the termites! These insects come out (in millions) from ground nests, and then the children (not only them) become hunters: with a sieve moistened by a bit of water (for wetted their wings) capture them and then they eat them. They are a protein-rich meal!
But during the Holy Week, while we remember the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus, our inner interests are turned to what the liturgy proposes us. On Palm Sunday, we begin the celebration with the procession: a bit of disorder, but a lot of joy: isn’t difficult to imagine what has happened 2000 years ago in Jerusalem, receiving Jesus.
On Monday, the children and the adults who will receive the First Communion make their confession. This is an opportunity to present this beautiful sacrament of God's Forgiveness also to catechumens that Saturday night at Easter Vigil will receive Baptism. With them Tuesday afternoon we spend some time in prayer and reflection to help them to be ready for the great gift they are going to receive.
Wednesday morning I leave towards Bouar driving through Bossemptele and Baoro. In the evening I’m with thirty priests of the Diocese of Bouar and with them I celebrate the Vespers in the Chapel of Clarisse. This is a special occasion because tomorrow morning, Holy Thursday, we will celebrate the Chrism Mass in which the Bishop consecrates the Oils (the Oil of the Sick, the catechumens and the chrism) and the priests renew their priestly vows. Our Bishop is still in Italy due to fragile health and age problems. For this reason is the Bishop of Berberati who presides over the ceremony. It's great to see priests who for years (some for almost 60 years!!!!) live and work with simplicity and joy here in Central Africa! Immediately after the Mass, on Thursday morning, I leave towards   Bozoum, where I arrive around 2.00 pm and at 4.00 pm we begin the celebration that recalls the Last Supper, in which Jesus "creates" the Eucharist and washed the feet of the apostles.
Today is the great Good Friday in which we celebrate the Passion and Death of Jesus. These Sacred days are of a great help to remind us of the extraordinary love of God for us. Tomorrow Saturday at the Easter Vigil we will sing: "Oh the immensity of Your Love for us, to ransom a slave you have sacrificed your Son!". It is true, unfortunately, that too many times we have to face death, illness, and difficulties. And let me say that here in Central Africa no less than anywhere else. But it is true, thanks God that through the death and resurrection of Jesus there is always a hope beyond all the worst!
Happy Easter!

domenica delle Palme
dimanche des Rameaux

a caccia di termiti
à la chasse des termites

le rondini
les hirondelles

Marta, infermiera e ostetrica, prepara le croci per i Battesimi
Marta, infirmière et sage-femme, prepare les croix pour les Baptèmes

Sunday, April 9, 2017

A quiet week ... or not?

A quiet week ... or not?
I thought (I did hope and dream) I could stay a bit quiet in Bozoum, after a number of trips in recent weeks. Instead on Wednesday morning I had to drive to Bouar. Luckily there is the direct route, which allows me to avoid that longer one (2 hours instead of 5, and 105 km instead of 250).
On my way back I found a nice surprise! These last days it was raining and the rain caused the collapse of some walls in Bouar, fortunately without casualties. With the rain the nature flourishes: the grass grows, and the insects multiply. Along the way I found so many birds “celebrating”. I did see mostly falcons and hawks, but then I found dozens of birds of a species that I have never seen. I found out later that they were “Abdin storcks”, black and white, really elegant.
Yesterday, Friday, we began the Youth Pilgrimage. The participants are about 500! Last week we have had a few days of reflection and preparation and now we are ready for this journey:  two days of walking, up to Taley, a village 49 km from Bozoum. Friday after a moment of prayer in the church, the pilgrimage begins. It is a very hot day! But we simply are walking with courage. After 5 km we stop a while to compact the group and restarting praying the Rosary, meditating the Stations of the Cross, and singing. After 3 hours of walking we reach Betara, at about 18 km, a village where there is a school, a small chapel, a water pump. Here the pilgrims will spend the night. I return to Bozoum.
On Saturday I get up at 4 am, I go to buy bread and at around 5 am I’m in Betara. Here they are all awake, and the cooks are distributing breakfast: coffee or tea and two loaf of bread. At 6:05 am we move again. We spend the first hour in prayer, celebrating the Rosary and singing, while going on. The sun ... today hits a lot, I think we are on the 38th Celsius, and forces us to few stops. About 10 Km before arrival, the parish that welcomes us, organized a small reception committee and as we move forward, the villagers or walk with us, or just observe, offering water, and having an eye on mango trees, fearing that the fruits can be stolen. At 12:30 pm we finally reach Taley. We all feel very tired, but the afternoon promises to be busy: shower, lunch, the celebration of the Mass and confessions, and ... the inevitable soccer game and dancing. 
Life is a long pilgrimage!
il muro crollato alla Yolé
le mur écroulé à la Yolé

la Cicogna di Abdim
la cigogne d'Abdim

Via Crucis: la morte di Gesù
Le chemin de Croix: la mort de Jésus

Arrivo a Betara
L'arrivée à Betara


preparativi per la notte a Betara

Sabato, una pausa sulla strada
Samedi, une pause sur la route

l'accoglienza dei cristiani sulla strada
l'accueil des chrétiens sur la route

enfin à Taley