Monday, 27 October 2003

Brescia (Fides Service) - On Saturday 25 October in Brescia the 13th edition of “Cuore Amico” awarded was given to three Italian missionaries: Father Lorenzo Franzoni, who has worked in Brazil for more than forty years, Comboni Sister Fosca Berardi involved in mission schools in Africa and the Middle East, Ms Ivana Cossar, lay missionary for thirty years in Africa. Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, who came from Rome to present the awards, said “the task of proclaiming the Gospel brings with it the promotion of human development through various different commitments which have in common a great impulse of authentic love ”.
“In the times when I set out for Brazil in 1957, we missionaries received no specific training – Father Lorenzo Franzoni said in his address -. We carried nothing and departed almost without knowing where we were going. I came to know my destination only when I had already embarked on an old ship on its last voyage; my baggage: one small cardboard suitcase with the indispensable change of clothes and, without the superior’s knowledge, a banknote for 500 old-Lire which my mother had taken from her purse as we said goodbye…I have always carried with me the bag of poverty, at first a nuisance, but then ever dearer… now, at the end of the journey I ask: “How was it possible? How was it possible to draw from the bag of poverty schools with hundreds of pupils, pieces of land for dozens of land-less families, small workshops where young men learned a trade and escaped unemployment; above all how could the poverty bag contain a Centre for the Disabled of all ages? The Word of the Sacred Scriptures studied in the seminary or at Scripture Courses, bounces from the niche it carves in the lives of the poor, the excluded and returns to us like an echo coming from their flesh. The rebellious young girl who surrenders because: “Now I know that God is Father and he loves me, because I have seen a man doing good”. The drunken thief bursts into tears because: “He told me that Jesus loves me”. A poor man goes fishing and on the way home with his full basket he stops by the home of a friend who is ill and lets him choose the best fish. The Gospel becomes flesh, flesh of men, flesh of women, flesh of all people.”
“My years spent in Eritrea were rich in experience and they allowed me to feel how close the Lord is to those who want to serve him ” said Sister Fosca Berardi “It is in schools that we meet pupils, parents, authorities and also those in need of help. It is fundamental to build a climate of understanding and harmony among the different nationalities and religions. At present I am teaching a course Natural Law (Philosophy of Religion) and my students are 90% Muslim. One striking discovery is that God created all people equal and he cares equally for every person. To teach in the world today that God is Father who loves every person is a passionate, enriching mission which is invites to work in silence expecting no recompense or success.”
Ivana Cossar, thirty years of mission in Africa, underlines that “the fundamental thing is to sow, perhaps without ever seeing the fruit of our sowing. In mission lands, Divine Providence has allowed me to distribute thousands of copies of the Gospels in African languages to men, women and children, perhaps 15.000 or 20.000: young adults of the savannah, poor people, blind as they were, opened their eyes and marvelled to discover the riches of God’s Word. But who is poorer than those who have eyes to see, but have not encountered Christ? Who is poorer than the person unable to forgive? During coups and wars which inflict deep wounds, I have seen and heard hundreds and hundreds of people in church praise and bless God because it was these tragedies that led them to the Lord, helped them find the faith and the strength to live and to forgive.” (S.L.) (Agenzia Fides 27/10/2003; lines 46; words 726)