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Saturday, March 26, 2016

Holy Week

Holy Week
The liturgy takes us to the Easter celebration: the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus.
The Holy Week opens with Palm Sunday. Here in Bozoum we meet at 8.00 am in front of the school "Isidore Bakanjia": lots of people, with beautiful palm trees, many of them artistically twisted. There is a festive atmosphere, as it was 2000 years ago in Jerusalem, when the people welcomed Jesus with great joy. After reading the Gospel and blessing of the palms, we enter in procession (more or less tidy ...) in church.  Here the Mass continues normally, with the reading of the long evangelical story of Jesus Passion.
Tuesday I leave driving towards Bouar where I arrive early afternoon. While there, in our seminary of Yole’, arrives the Apostolic Nuncio. He is pretty much the ambassador of the Holy See, and given the absence of our Bishop who is in Italy for health reasons, it is He who presides over the Chrism Mass. He is welcomed by songs and greetings. Then we spend a moment in the chapel, where he could meet the kids and youth of our Seminary. He speaks very enthusiastically about the visit of the Pope in Central Africa Republic, on 29 and 30 November. Suddenly he stops and asks young people who were in Bangui for that occasion, to share their personal experiences. And our young people do express deep and very beautiful thoughts. Leonce ends the series of testimonies. He is one, together with five others, who could be confessed by the Pope.
Wednesday morning at 8.00am we are in the Cathedral for the Chrism Mass, the Mass that brings together all priests of the diocese in order to celebrate the Priesthood. During the celebration, the priests renew their priestly promises, and then the bishop blesses the oils that will be used for the celebration of the sacraments. After lunch together with my community members I leave immediately to return to Bozoum, where I arrive at 7.00 pm.
On Thursday morning I meet the catechumens for a moment of prayer and reflection and, in the afternoon, we celebrate the Mass named as the "Lord's last supper", in which we commemorate the priesthood, the Eucharist, and the commandment of Love. As Jesus did at his last Supper, I wash the feet of twelve persons chosen among the poor of the parish.
Friday is a day of silence and prayer. In the morning I meet guys, girls, youth and adults. All of them will receive on April 10 the sacrament of Confirmation. In the afternoon, we are in church for the Passion of Jesus celebration. We now are very close to the Easter Celebration, preceded by Holy Saturday, a day of waiting, but in which we are already sure that He will win!
I end by sharing with you the Easter wishes, adding a very beautiful “prayer of the Good Thief": Happy Easter from Bozoum! During these “normal” days something exceptional happens: Jesus suffers, is betrayed, and died for us! I pray and ask you all to help me and help us all not to "get accustom” to God, not to just settle for some time and some thought, but to live all our days in the memory of that gesture of infinite love which is the entire life of all Jesus. I pray and ask you all to help me and help us all not to "get accustom" to the pain and suffering of others, but to be able to stay close, even without many words, but with all the love possible and impossible! Happy Easter!
Fr. Aurelio
The good thief speaks
The worst moment comes when they swing you up nailed to the dead tree.
A blinding thud follows as they drop it into the earth
 Some say you have a black-out
 I shall know soon enough
Trees should be places of song
Now Jam being swung upward
The soldiers are pulling on the ropes
I am rising to meet my death
Then everything goes a blank...
When I come round there is no singing to be heard
 My bones are screaming with pain
Dogs are barking — but there are no robbers about
We stay clear of Jerusalem on days such as this
The man next to me speaks from time to time
He is thirsty
He cries out to his father in heaven
He asks mercy for those around him
Last night in the cells there were some who said he might be a king
I find myself urged to speak to him
I say "Remember me when you come into your kingdom"
In a clear voice he answers "You shall be there before the sun goes down"
I am struck silent by this promise
His words take away my last fear
Before night falls I shall be far away from this evil hill with its demons
I begin to feel like a bird about to be released into a sky without ending
My strength is slowly leaving me ...
Below us are a group of patient women
There is one who has kept repeating "Never forget what my son has promised"
 Sometimes she speaks as if she were praying — "Our fathers trusted in God and he set them free"
What simple faith women have
My own mother died many years ago
Now I have another —0 Lady in the Blue Cloak protect and watch over me
It is getting harder to breathe
My tongue sticks in my dry mouth...
Yesterday nobody came to the prison
No one cared
Yet this man beside me cares
I should like to kneel at his feet
But I cannot move
It is 3 o'clock and the sun has left the sky
Darkness is everywhere
Then suddenly I realize I am no longer nailed to a dead tree
I have only to stretch out my hands and they will be taken
(Neville Braybrooke)

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Journeying to Easter

Journeying to Easter
On Sunday Fr. Cyriaque is among us, a young Carmelite father ordained here in Bozoum in December 2011, on the memorial of the 40 years of our presence here. He came with 8 kids, high school students, who are training in our seminary in Bouar.
Sunday afternoon I make an inspection of the chosen area for youth pilgrimage, which will take place Saturday, on Palm Sunday vigil. Is with me Mario Mazzali: I managed to have him for half an hour, away from his work! On the way back we stopped on the bridge, built in 1942 by Italian prisoners!!! They were soldiers who, with the fall of Ethiopia and Eritrea, had been sent somewhat all over Africa.
On Monday the works resume. Mario is helping us, among other problems, to fix the solar panels installed last year. We change some of the batteries, and the system becomes more efficient, thanks to the kind of material, the work of Mario, but also to the  support  of KAD3, a firm of Bari, who follows us from afar, but never missing to assist us! Tuesday we stay with the nuns for an hour of Eucharistic adoration. The Pope, on his visit to Central Africa Republic left this commitment, and all communities of our diocese are involved in a schedule by which every day is ensured a presence of prayer before the Eucharist.
Wednesday I go downtown to the furnace in order to buy bread: an artisan workshop, with a very simple system, a wood stove and good bread!
Thursday is a critical day! I invited the faithful to come in the afternoon for a half-day retreat and reflection. I was pessimistic about the number of presence. I said to myself: perhaps just a few, 50 the most. At 2.10pm I invite “the few” to enter the church.  Instead ... slowly the church fills with very excited people! Together we reflect on the Love of God, choosing as a guide for our spiritual journey an exceptional witness: St. Peter! After the catechesis, we have a moment of silence followed by the Sacrament of confession. Easter is approaching, and we try to prepare the heart and mind to this gift of God's mercy!
Last news: it is on newsstands the latest issue of "The saint Michel", the Bozoum newspaper: 

Il ponte sullOuham

Saturday, March 12, 2016

A few raindrops


A few raindrops
Sunday morning, February 6, there is a little excitement before 8,30 am Mass. The liturgy in Central Africa is very intense, joyful and participated (heart, mind, body, eyes, ears ...). Sunday Mass engages, in addition to the priest, all people. Around the altar have something to carry on the catechists, the readers, the altar boys, the choir and the dancers, a group of girls who dance and accompany the songs and liturgy.
Today’s excitement is due to the just arrived new liturgical vestments for the dancers! In 2014 the Bozoum Christians did collect a bit of money to express their gratitude to the parish priest, because of his help during the period of war helping the refugees. Unfortunately, for a number of circumstances, the gift expected had not been made possible. Few weeks ago they gave me the money (more than 110 euro!). Then I thought to make gowns for "danseuses": so I did buy beautiful yellow fabric and another green, satin type, and soon is party!
The Mass is celebrated by Fr.Giustino, our Provincial Superior, and Fr.Davide, Administrator for the Missions. At the end Fr.Giustino greets the liturgical assembly, and expresses his own surprise for the great works of construction of the Church, saying that we are building a Cathedral! The roar of the faithful expressed their entire satisfaction! This work is the result of some aid (like the “Propaganda Fide” and especially “Aid to the Church in Need”. But I have to say that what we see today is also the fruit of the work of Bozoum Christians, who have collected stones and sand for the construction.
At about 1.00 pm we leave immediately towards Bangui, and at 8.15 pm we are finally in our Carmel convent. The next morning, before beginning the meeting, we visit the refugee camp (almost 5,000 people who have been here since December 2013!) And, accompanied by a bunch of kids, we visit the stables and the various parts of the land, covered with palms, fruit trees and plants of the forest. In the morning we gather to discuss about the community (made up of 18 people, the majority of whom are our young guys in formation).
We discuss also on future projects: the construction of a monastery, a Shrine and a Center of Spirituality, the opening of an Agricultural school and, hopefully, the arrival of the Carmelite nuns. After numerous (too many!) meetings, with a little crisis of malaria and some cooking, I am on the road finally driving back to Bozoum, where I arrived greeted by a beautiful rain. It is the first of this year, after the dry season. 2 drops are enough to revive the dry and arid land.
I see this rain like the grace of God on our lives!

i lavori di amplamento della Chiesa di Bozoum
les travaux d'ampliation de l'Eglise de Bozoum

Saturday, March 5, 2016


I continue my journey. After the meeting in Kinshasa, Congo, on Thursday night I take my flight toward Yaounde, Cameroon, where I arrive the next day after few landings, one in Brazzaville, one in Nairobi, and a third one in Douala.
In the evening, from Italy, arrive Fr.Giustino our Provincial Superior and Fr.Davide Sollami our Assistant Procurator. They are here to visit our missions in Central Africa Republic, and meet Fr.Domenico and Fr. Marco, both from my own Province of Genoa, working here in Yaounde. The next day, Saturday February 27, we spend all morning in the capital city, then, approximately at 3.00pm we leave for Central Africa Republic. It’s a long journey (more than 750 km to get to Bouar). We spend the night in Bertoua.
Sunday morning around 6.00am we are again on the road and at 9.00am we reach the border. We take the opportunity to visit Yusuf, a Muslim friend who used to live in Bangui, but which has taken refuge here in Cameroon, where he started a large breeding of 60,000 laying hens! About noon we approach the border crossing. It’s always an adventure: often the official who has to sign the documents is absent, or the key and stamp are missing. Somehow lucky enough this time we go through in an hour time.
We restart toward Bouar where we arrive around 3.00pm. We stop at the Seminary of Yolé and here we celebrate at 17.30, along with 24 priests Carmelites, Capuchins and diocesan included. Such a celebration is intended to say goodbye to Sister Payton, an Indian nun, leaving definitely to India after 25 years of work as a nurse in Bouar.  
I travel with the Provincial in his visiting our missions. We meet the fathers of each mission, coming to know the journey of each community, confronting and trying to help everyone to overcome various difficulties. Between one meeting and another one, there is also time to give a hand in the kitchen, or to fix a satellite dish for the internet, or to install a bell.
On Tuesday morning we go to visit the other community of Bouar, the novitiate of St. Elias, from where we leave on Wednesday afternoon toward Baoro.  Here we meet Fr.Lionello, Fr.Dieudonné, Brother Nicholas and Brother Martial, staying here for the evening and Thursday, in friendly company with them.
On Friday morning we leave for Bozoum, and after a stop in Bossemptele, we finally arrive at home around noon, after a couple of weeks and after driving 2,000 km.

P.Giustino, Youssouf, Sidibem p.Davide, p.Lionello e Saydou

Messa alla Yolé (Bouar)

Sr Payton

Celebrazione a Sant'Elia, con Padri e Novizi
Célébration à Saint Elie, avec Pères et Novices

i lavori per la Chiesa di Bozoum avanzano imponenti!
les travaux pour l'église de Bozoum avancent...
L'accoglienza delle suore congolesi a P.Giustino