Friday, 1 August 2003

Rome (Fides Service) – Founded in 1867 by Blessed Daniel Comboni (1831-1881) who will be canonised on 5 October, the Comboni missionaries of the Heart of Jesus (MCCI) are today in all 1,823 working on four continents: Africa 793; Asia 28; Latin America 443; Europe and North America 559. They work in many different areas of mission: first evangelisation, city outskirts, formation of pastoral workers, promotion of native people, vocation animation, not to mention a strong presence in the Media. The 16th General Chapter of the Comboni Missionaries, which will open on September 1, will reflect on the identity of the Comboni missionary and the new paths of mission in the third millennium. Fides Service spoke with Father Juan Gonzalez Nunez, head of the Chapter preparatory commission.

For every institute the general chapter is a time to take stock and to plan for the future. What will be the main themes for the Chapter of the Comboni Missionaries?
The central theme for the 16th Chapter is “The Comboni mission at the beginning of the third millennium”. Today, when the concept and practice of mission ad gentes are undergoing major changes, we feel the need to reflect on our understanding of mission ad gentes and to identify the fields of our mission, taking into consideration the priorities of our institute, because our numbers are limited we cannot cover every field. In the three years since the theme of the Chapter was chosen during the inter-chapter assembly in 2000, we have sent a questionnaire to our members and on the basis of their answers we drafted a working paper for our Chapter.

When will the Chapter be held and how many members will take part?
The Chapter will open on September 1 and it will close at the end of the same month on the eve of the canonisation of our Founder, Daniele Comboni. Eighty three chapter members will take part: 28 chapter members by right di (the members of the general council and the provincial superiors), 42 elected chapter members from the provinces (33 priests and 9 brothers), 11 observers (who do not vote) and 2 secretaries.

The Comboni missionaries work in different areas of mission ad gentes. Tell us something of your activity in the different continents?
43% of the Comboni missionaries work in Africa, 27% in Europe, 26% in America and 2% in Asia. In Africa the min work is first evangelisation among excluded ethnic groups (nomads pigmies…). In recent years more attention has been given to the city outskirts and also to the formation of local pastoral workers, (priests, Sisters, catechists…). In America mission animation in the local Churches is an important part of our work. We are also engaged in pastoral work in city outskirts and among excluded groups among (Indians, Afro-Americans). In Europe our main activity is mission animation. Lately special attention is given to immigrants with some significant presence among them. In Asia our workers are few and they focus mainly on mission animation and vocations pastoral (Philippines), with a new presence of first evangelisation in Macao e Taiwan. It is important to mention the presence of Comboni missionaries in the means of communications on all the continents with magazines (more than 20), radio and TV programmes, production of videos…

What are the lines of inspiration for the Comboni missionaries today?
The Comboni missionaries take inspiration from two main methods which were the slogan of our founder Daniele Comboni: “save Africa with Africa” and “being an Upper Room of apostles.
The first principle demands: respect and attention for our interlocutors, familiarity with their language and culture, discovering the values of the Kingdom already present therein; walking with them, adopting their life style and rhythm of life, adopting poor means in the work of evangelisation; giving attention to local pastoral workers: promote the formation of a local Church as soon as possible with local operators where it does not exist and with respect and fraternity where it already exists; give priority to con pastoral and social projects to be continued locally; work to promote justice and peace.
The second principle, “being an Upper Room of apostles”, demands: living in community with mutual love and respect as a sign of the call of the Kingdom; being a model for the small Christian communities where there must be again the spirit of “one in heart and mind” of the early Christians; evangelise as a community, that is pray, plan and work together to guarantee more continuity for our work of evangelisation. (S.L.) (Fides Service 1/8/2003; Righe 59 - Parole 749)