A Cardinal on a tour
Here is the surprise of this week: the visit of the Cardinal, the Archbishop of Bangui, Dieudonné Nzapalainga!
As soon as he was elected Cardinal he planned a visit to all the dioceses of the Country, and he began right from our, the diocese of Bouar.
Wednesday morning he left the Capital, and after a stop at the parish (and hospital) of Bossemptele, at 5.00pm arrived in Bozoum A large crowd came to welcome him, right on the road leading to the Mission. We joined him, with songs and shouts of joy and few unintended pushes, to the church where he could pray and address his first greeting to the people. People are more than enthusiastic, also because it he is the only prominent figure and reference for all Central Africa.
Thursday morning we have a busy schedule to enable the Cardinal to come to know the various entities of the parish, and then ready to continue on his pastoral journey. At 6:30 am Mass: despite the early hour, the church is packed. It is a beautiful celebration, with dancing, singing, prayer, listening to God's Word, and to the words of our Cardinal: an invitation to always trust in God, to grow in faithfulness to His Love and the love that reaches all the brothers, without distinction, and look beyond in order to build the Country's future with reliability. After the Mass we went to visit with him the High School, where teachers and students welcomed him with joy, listening carefully his message of trust in the young, and of responsibility for everyone to build up a serious future full of hope, dreaming an honest work by following their studies.
Then we went to visit the Elementary school, and after, we had a meeting with the Parish Council in order to make him known about the realities of the parish. They listen to his advice and encouragement.
We end with a meeting with antibalaka, the rebels who disseminate fear and worry. They listen to him carefully, even if his words go straight to the heart of the problem.
After greeting the Sisters, we head towards Bocaranga, a city far from here 125 km. Bocaranga, on February 2, was attacked by dozens of Peul, which killed 21 people, burned the market and many shops, spreading terror during never ending 4 hours. People fled, some of them came to Bozoum. And all this happened despite a contingent of UN peacekeepers, who did not intervene, allowing the massacre.
Along the way many villages await the Cardinal! I leave right away to forego, notifying villages, and possibly signaling whether there are security problems. We stop in Tolle, 60 km from Bozoum, where Cardinal wants to greet all the people sharing together a moment of prayer. I go ahead, and 3.00 pm I'm in Bocaranga. There are a lot of people waiting for him: it is virtually the first moment of happy celebration and calm for the people of the city and the thousands of evacuees. The welcome is triumphant, and in a jubilation of songs, joyful screams and dust the Cardinal and the people walk towards the church. After a moment of rest, we meet with the missionaries and the Sisters of Bocaranga, together with Ndim and Ngaundaye Missions. It is a very intense moment in which the Cardinal expresses the gratitude of the Church and of the people for the faithful presence, despite the dangers and war. There are young Sisters and Fathers in their 80s, some of which are in Central Africa since 1960!!!
Friday morning we celebrate the Mass. here too it’s a very solemn celebration. At 6.30 the church is already full, and many need to take place outside! After Mass, the Cardinal meets with students and teachers, and then he meets the people of Bocaranga, ending with a conversation with antibalaka. To them, as he did in Bozoum, the Cardinal recommended to have a better vision of the life looking far, taking roads of peace, of reconciliation, of construction and not destruction and killings.
At about 11:30 the Cardinal leaves going towards Bouar while I stay because of some meetings with Caritas of the Parish and some agricultural cooperatives, to see how to help the city and the thousands of evacuees who have fled and here took refuge. The needs are huge!
It is sad to see the abandonment by the State of much of the territory. Here, the Government seems to have only rights and no duties: the roads are a joke, schools and hospitals are left to the sensibilities of parishes, NGOs and people of good will; the police are absent and powerless. And this goes together with the presence of a large UN mission, which, despite an impressive deployment of people and resources, seems not to have a clear desire for peace.
It is emblematic of what I'm saying this simple fact that I witnessed this morning. During the meeting with pupils and students, a girl 14-15 y.o. has brought a letter in which she explains the situation to the President of the Republic. And she said (I quote): "I hand it over to you, Your Eminence, so for sure you give it to the President of the Republic: because if I give to others, will never come into his hands" !!!
|Bozoum, Lycée St Augustin|
|Bozoum, école Bakanjia|
|Bozoum, école Maternelle|
|Un antibalaka... armato e non disturbato da nessuno!|
Un antibalaka, armé...
|Bocaranga, riunione con i religiosi e le religiose|
|Bocaranga, riunione con gli antibalaka|