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Italian missionaries: the person at the center

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Italian missionaries: the person at the center

At the Farnesina, the meeting promoted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on their service to the four corners of the world. Tajani: «We often talk about numbers, but for you the life of every single person is an extraordinary richness. You are the diplomacy of the Spirit.” The Vatican secretary for relations with states Msgr. Gallagher quoted the words of Father Giuseppe Piazzini, PIME missionary in Japan since 1964: “It’s not about doing great things, it’s about being present, doing the little you can.”

The conference entitled “The person at the centre” held today in Rome at the International Conference Hall of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation was a lively mosaic of voices, testimonies and reflections on the theme of mission and the role of Italian missionaries in the world. These, it was underlined, “contribute, with consistency and dedication, to bringing the human dimension back to the center of social discourse”. They do so as absolute protagonists in mission contexts, which means first of all committing themselves to understanding what moves from within the life of a people «allowing themselves to be shaped and animated by their daily life with the humanizing force of the Gospel and of an existence that has taken it as a rule of life”, said Mgr. Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for relations with states and international organizations of the Holy See.

To moderate the work – divided into three thematic sessions; which began at 9.30 am and concluded at 3 pm – was Davide Dionisi, spokesperson for the Vice President of the Council and Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani, and special envoy for the promotion of religious freedom of the Italian government. Dionisi began by reading a message from Pope Francis, signed by Card. Pietro Parolin, sent to the ministry for the occasion. Message in which today’s initiative is applauded as it is aimed «to reflect on the work of evangelization that numerous sons and daughters of the dear Italian nation carry out in the world, recognizing that even today in many more remote rural areas human dignity is unfortunately trampled upon cause of economic and political selfishness”. Together we hope that this initiative, for which Tajani has expressed the desire to become an annual event, “will spark renewed institutional collaboration in the wake of the long and positive tradition experienced so far, marked by respect and constructive discussion”. The message concluded with the sending of the apostolic blessing to all those present, “with a particular thought for those who courageously made the ultimate sacrifice”.

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“Italy is a country that has a propensity for openness, that wants to be a positive protagonist in the world, and the Italian government’s policy is based on some fundamental values, first of all the centrality of the person”, commented the Minister of Foreign Affairs Antonio Tajani, who gave the example of the Italian soldiers “who work for peace” engaged on the Vulcano ship, near the Egyptian coast, which is welcoming injured people from the civilian population of Gaza. But “obviously the bearers of peace are the missionaries”, added the deputy prime minister. These, both lay and religious, maintain “a vision that is not purely immanent”, but “transcends” because “in a suffering face the Christian sees the face of the suffering Christ”. At the beginning, Tajani also addressed a thought to the many “priests and nuns killed in the world, just because they were Christians, just because they brought a certain type of message”. A message that they transmit in contexts that have multiple problems: «Climate change, which destroys agriculture and pastoralism in many countries and pushes many farmers to join the ranks of terrorism – he said -. Poverty, disease; there is also very often strong corruption in some situations; furthermore there are structural deficiencies, lack of hospitals, merciless wars.” Remembering at this point some of the often forgotten countries affected by conflicts and repression: Rwanda, Sudan, Syria and Afghanistan. «As a Christian I understand the spirit that drives you – added the minister, addressing the many missionaries present in the room -. It is not the spirit of the trade unionist: the transcendent drive goes beyond the immanent drive, albeit laudable and positive.” It is precisely from this spirit that the urgency of placing “the person at the centre” derives: “We often talk about numbers, but the life of every single person is the extraordinary wealth for all of us”. “You are the diplomacy of the Spirit,” he said.

A series of interventions then followed: testimonies from missionaries, men and women, lay and religious, both present at the Farnesina Palace and connected remotely, from Kenya, Mongolia, and other countries. Representatives of various Italian organizations involved in mission contexts around the world, but also in Italy, were present. Among others: Doctors with Africa CUAMM, Community in Dialogue and Community of Sant’Egidio. The testimonies were interspersed with contributions from Father Giulio Albanese, Msgr. Emilio Nappa and prof. Marco Impagliazzo. The Foreign Minister reiterated the support of Italian institutions to the missionaries even outside the borders. “We have instructed all the Italian embassies to support you and put you in a position to be able to do good even with the support of our official diplomacy,” said the vice president.

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Once the work had begun, it was Gallagher’s turn to speak, during which he also chose to share with those present the words of Father Giuseppe Piazzini, PIME missionaries born in 1936, still in Japan where he arrived in 1964. Piazzini says that on a mission every day you ask yourself “what should you do in the place where God has put you”. «The family is large, the needs are always new. I try to ensure that people can always be alive, active, progress in their life of union with God”, is what the secretary reported. And again: «It’s not about doing great things, it’s about being present, doing the little you can».

As for the title of the conference, Msgr. Gallagher said he “well outlines the daily work of missionaries.” In fact, their testimony teaches how insufficient it is to “establish the indicators of progress and human development on the sole parameter of per capita income”. Instead, it is necessary to enter into “a broad and detailed consideration of the factors determining the concrete lives of people”. It is in this direction that he aims the work of the Italian missionaries engaged in all continents. Often trained in Italy, they complete their training in what is their other “university”: “Africa, Asia and the world“, said the secretary for relations with states. Here they learn that “everything is enormously more complex than it appears.”

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