Comboni Missions Magazine Summer 2021

Comboni Missions 2021 Summe r

Mission Work Never Grows Old At 80, Fr. Alberto Ministers in Uganda

Pope Francis in Iraq Historic Visit Bolsters Beleaguered Christians

United in Prayer New Comboni Bishop Offers Mercy for Attackers

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From the Editor’s Desk


The Comboni Missionaries have celebrated more than 150 years of service to the poorest and most abandoned people of the world. St. Daniel Comboni had a dream for Africa, for the Gospel, and for the future of the Church that would lead him far from his home in Italy and the culture and comforts he cherished. He knew that the scourges of slavery, exploitation, and colonialism failed to respect the human dignity of the peoples of Africa, and of the poor and marginalized in every corner of the world.

Our last issue featured a short profile of Fr. Christian Carlassare, our newly appointed Comboni bishop. Since that time, he was assaulted by gunmen and shot multiple times in both legs, possibly as a way of sending a “message” about the influence of the Church in South Sudan. Fr. Carlassare responded with a message of his own, one of love and forgiveness for his attackers, from his hospital bed in Nairobi. His resolve to serve the people of South Sudan has not wavered. Perhaps this is due in part to the fact that there is something about working for the missions that rejuvenates, even in spite of the toil and occasional setbacks. Comboni Fr. Alberto Anichini is a wonderful example of this principle in action. In this issue, you’ll learn more about just how much this 80-year-old dynamo loves the people he works with—and how that work energizes him. And while troubles in the Middle East seem always to be with us, Pope Francis traveled to Iraq to bring a ray of hope to the remaining Christians in the area. Stories from the missions often contain a vein of struggle or sorrow, but the arc of our work remains the same: to bring the Gospel to all the earth and serve those most in need. We could not continue our work without your support. Please be assured of our gratitude and our prayers. ∎

He founded two Institutes of religious life, for men and women, and today inspires lay missionaries and people around the globe to share in the noble mission of

bringing the Gospel—and the peace and justice of the kingdom of God—to all who have never heard it, and to those who need to hear it again. Today, the Comboni Missionaries serve in more than forty countries in Africa, America, Europe, and Asia. True to St. Daniel’s vision “to save Africa with Africa,” the missionaries themselves come from all reaches of the earth, working together in a common cause. They have been working in North America for eighty years, focusing on pastoral work among African- Americans, Appalachians, Native Americans, and Hispanics, seeking always to adapt their ministries and their methods to the people they serve.

PUBLISHER Comboni Missionaries EDITORIAL OFFICE Comboni Mission Center 1318 Nagel Road Cincinnati, OH 45255 (513) 474-4997

EDITOR Kathleen M. Carroll Send Letters to the Editor: Volume 59, No. 2 A $15 annual donation is greatly appreciated. Comboni Missions (ISSN 0279-3652) is an award-winning publication of the Comboni Missionaries and a member of the Catholic Media Association. Published quarterly.

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8 Mission Work Never Grows Old Eighty-year-old Comboni Fr. Alberto Anichini is energized by his ministry in northern Uganda

Unequal Risk Climate change disproportionately affects the poor in India


A Grateful Heart The North American Province celebrates the Feast of the Sacred Heart with an in-person gathering.


14 Pope Francis in Iraq

5 Meditation

6 Around the World

“The Name of God Cannot Be Used to Justify Acts of Murder”

20 Around the Province

23 Vocations

18 United in Prayer


Cover - Alberto Anichini. 3-4 - Photos Adobe Stock. 6 - Stories CNA, photos CNA,Wikimedia. 8-11 - Photos Alberto Anichini. 12-13- Photo and story Thomson Reuters Foundation. 14-16- Story and photo courtesy CNA; sidebar 18 - Story and photo courtesy CNA. 19-20 - photos supplied by author. Back cover - Adobe Stock.

Newly Appointed Comboni Bishop Shares a Message of Forgiveness for Attackers

Summer 2021 3


General Councils of the Comboni Family In June a virtual meeting of the General Councils of the Comboni Family (Comboni Missionary Sisters, Secular Comboni Missionaries, Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus and Comboni Lay Missionaries) presented an opportunity for all members of the family to share, talk, and discuss current challenges and opportunities.

and cooperation is due not only to the current participants but is an essential character of these meetings and one that must be maintained in the future, even if there are changes in the teams and participants. He says, “In the coming months the general assembly of the Comboni Lay Missionaries and later the chapter of the MCCJs will be held. We wish them all the best and accompany these commitments with prayer and a willingness to collaborate as a family. How to further deepen this collaboration is something we will continue to work on in future meetings. “We are very satisfied and grateful for the great work of the commission on ministeriality and the welcoming and participation of the members of the Comboni Family in these meetings.” ∎

The ministeriality commission reviewed the results of the data collection that has been carried out at the international level and that were presented in the last webinar in March. This information has helped everyone to stay apprised of our missionary presence and projects throughout the world. Coordinator Alberto de la Portilla reported, “We see that the family feeling that permeates our council meetings is very good.” He noted that this camaraderie

The Pope’s Prayer Intentions

July Social Friendship We pray that, in social, economic and political situations of conflict, we may be courageous and passionate architects of dialogue and friendship. August The Church Let us pray for the Church, that she may receive from the Holy Spirit the grace and strength to reform herself in the light of the Gospel. September An Environmentally Sustainable Lifestyle We pray that we all will make courageous choices for a simple and environmentally sustainable lifestyle, rejoicing in our young people who are resolutely committed to this.

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Queenship AUGUST 22 FEAST OF THE ofMary

In this feast, particularly cherished by the popes of modern times, we celebrate Mary as the Queen of Heaven and Earth. Pope Pius XII in the Papal Encyclical Ad Coeli Reginam proposed the traditional doctrine on the Queenship of Mary and established this feast for the Universal Church. Pope Pius IX said of Mary’s queenship: “Turning her maternal Heart toward us and dealing with the affair of our salvation, she is concerned with the whole human race. Constituted by the Lord Queen of Heaven and earth, and exalted above all choirs of Angels and the ranks of Saints in Heaven, standing at the right hand of Her only-begotten Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, she petitions most powerfully with Her maternal prayers, and she obtains what she seeks.” And Pope Pius XII added the following: “We commend that on the festival there be renewed the consecration of the human race to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Upon this there is founded a great hope that there will rejoice in the triumph of religion and in Christian peace... ...Therefore, let all approach with greater confidence now than before, to the throne of mercy and grace of our Queen and Mother to beg help in difficulty, light in darkness, and solace in trouble and sorrow... . . Whoever, therefore, honors the lady ruler of the Angels and of men— and let no one think themselves exempt from the payment of that tribute of a grateful and loving soul—let them call upon her as most truly Queen and as the Queen who brings the blessings of peace, that She may show us all, after this exile, Jesus, who will be our enduring peace and joy.”

Summer 2021 5

Around the World

CHINA New three-child policy a major policy shift

CANADA Two churches burned on tribal lands

Two Catholic churches in the same region of British Columbia burned down in suspicious circumstances in late June. The churches, located in the southern Okanagan region of British Columbia, served some indigenous First Nations families, but there are concerns the fires could have been targeted attacks. Investigators are considering whether arson caused the attacks. Possible motives could include someone targeting the Indigenous communities, or someone angry at the Catholic Church after the discovery of the undocumented graves of 215 Indigenous children at the grounds of a former Catholic-run residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia.

The Chinese government announced Monday that couples can have up to three children amid a sharp fall in the country’s birth rate. The May 31 announcement, described as a major policy shift, followed a meeting of the Politburo, the decision-making body of the Chinese Communist Party, chaired by President Xi Jinping. The official state-run Xinhua News Agency said that the decision was taken as the government sought to ensure continued economic growth, national security, and social stability. China’s National Bureau of Statistics said earlier this month that the country recorded 12 million births in 2020, the lowest number reported since the 1960s.

The figure means that China has a below replacement-level fertility rate of 1.3.

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Around the World

CHILE Catholics pray rosary for new constitution

MALI Kidnapped priest freed

Beginning June 23, Catholics in Chile will pray a rosary every week for the Holy Spirit to guide the work of drafting a new constitution for the country. A Rosary for Chile is the lay group that has been promoting this national “Rosary of Hope” prayer crusade since December 2020, after the country approved the constitutional process in an overwhelming popular vote. The organizers are asking their fellow citizens to pray for the people who were elected in May as members of the Constitutional Convention. That body will draft a Magna Carta to replace the one promulgated under the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in 1980, which is still in force. In October 2019, demonstrations broke out in Santiago over an increase in subway fares that was subsequently rescinded. Other regions joined in the protests, expanding their grievances to economic inequality and the cost of healthcare.

Kidnappers freed a Catholic priest and four others in the West African nation of Mali. Gunmen released Fr. Léon Douyon on June 23, 72 hours after seizing him, reported the French public radio service RFI. The five kidnap victims were dropped off at the roadside between Bankass and Bandiagara, in the village of Parou within the Diocese of Mopti. All five are said to be in good health. Major Abass Dembélé, the governor of the Mopti region, central Mali, said that the five were freed after the kidnappers’ vehicle broke down not far from Mali’s border with Burkina Faso. “The kidnappers therefore decided to abandon the vehicle somewhere in the bush and, thanks to the mediation of local Dogon and Fulani notables, they agreed to free their five hostages, who had become very cumbersome,” he was quoted as saying.

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Mission Work Never Grows Old

Mission Work Never Grows Old

Fr. Alberto Anichini’s work in Uganda seemed to have come to a conclusion. While he recovered in Italy from years of medical complications due to a broken ankle, the 80-year-old Comboni longed to return to his mission field at least long enough to say a proper farewell to his people. “But the local and provincial superiors told me that they would never authorize a ‘tourist’ tour of Uganda,” he says. “They told me, ‘If you go, you will remain there!’ They thought they would scare me.

Instead, I jumped at the opportunity. I said YES!”

Eighty-year-old Comboni Fr. Alberto Anichini is energized by his ministry in northern Uganda

Fr. Alberto is humble about his work here. “It’s nothing special, simply priestly ministry,” he says, “but that’s what the faithful want.” The more than 60 oupost chapels in the diocese of Lira in northern Uganda start filling up early in the morning. “The people are very religious, especially after the long lockdown,” he said in April 2021, as restrictions began to ease. “They fill up the churches and chapels so much that after a few years we

Kathleen M. Carroll

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Mission Work Never Grows Old

have to enlarge them or build bigger ones,” he says. “Their liturgies last a long time and are filled with joyful songs and dances.” The coronavirus lockdowns were a blow to the people. The strict regulations meant that the priests could not travel to the outstations and even the main church was closed. The streaming Masses that had become routine in other parts of the world were simply not an option. “Most of our people have no access to the internet,” Fr. Alberto says. As the rules eased this spring, the Masses resumed—with a few changes. “We divided the chapel areas into several

Fr. Alberto is often seen with his injured leg elevated, but this does not slow him down. Here he is turning a quiet corner into a confessional.

do this for anyone, male or female, but men and boys do not follow the same behavior. “When I protested with the women their answer was ‘That is simply how we show good manners.’And they laugh when I object that the attitude creates the mentality of the inferiority of women,” he says. Some other traditional practices, Fr. Alberto says, may seem outdated, but still have their value. Young men typically offer goods or money to their bride’s family as part of the marriage arrangements. “It is a compensation for losing a valuable member of the clan,” he says, “and maybe serves as incentive for the spouses to ‘behave’.” These arrangements may seem unusual, but Fr. Alberto says, “I think for the time being that it is a positive thing, especially when compared to how often marriages break up in our Western world, and how often women are mistreated or even killed.” The practice seems to ensure that wives are respected and valued.

smaller groups so there would be smaller groups of people and they could keep some distance between themselves. Even if we pray under a tree there is always soap and water at the entrance of the village and the priests and catechists wear masks and use hand sanitizer. “And besides, there is always plenty of air in the open spaces where we have Mass!” Fr. Alberto fell in love with the people here and they love him, too. But it has not always been a smooth relationship. “I would say that what always has struck me is their benevolence and tolerance toward me when perhaps I was kind of rude maybe unknowingly regarding their own etiquette in relational behavior,” he confesses. For example, in this region it is common for women or girls to kneel when they are offering you an item or a service. If you are offered a drink in someone’s home, they will kneel in front of you to deliver it. They will

Summer 2021 9

Mission Work Never Grows Old

This respect seems to permeate the culture here. Elders are honored and listened to and children are cherished. Sometimes it is a challenge for outsiders to get used to this standard of concern for others. “For instance,” Fr. Alberto says, “they give you all their attention and time when you are their guest. I am not always able to reciprocate that; there are often too many things on my mind.” And the generosity of the people permeates every aspect of life. “I have always marveled at the way they express genuine joy when they can offer you something, be it a chicken or some produce from their fields. The most joyous moment of the Eucharistic celebration is the offertorial procession,” Fr. Alberto says. Mission work here has its challenges as well. “Perhaps spiritual growth is the most important challenge for our people. Our contact with them is too sporadic and too fleeting to touch them deeply. Though the most

important theme of my preaching is the unconditional love of God for us, we rarely have time for a deep exchange and dialogue.” “Until the Covid lockdown stopped it, at least the monthly gatherings of the charismatic movement gave a lot of people the occasion for a deeper encounter with God. I marvel at how even young people or children enjoyed silent prayer as well as the loud singing and clapping that go with such meetings. “The people here are naturally spiritual and we should do more to foster this deep vein of their soul. I think that a well-prepared team of religious and laypeople could do wonders in this field, especially in helping to empower our people to make an impact in the social, political, and environmental fields. “We have made a start,” he says, “but I must confess that I am a bit of an amateur in those fields. We need experts to help the people help themselves.” ∎

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Mission Work Never Grows Old

Uganda Faces Another Lockdown

This part of Africa did not experience the same spread of the disease that the United States witnessed, at least during 2020. But a recent surge has meant a new lockdown. Uganda has reimposed a 42-day lockdown as coronavirus infections surge in the East African country. President Yoweri Museveni said in a Friday night address that he was tired of receiving calls about deaths, but critics say he presented a wish list that would instead worsen the situation for Ugandans. Earlier that day, the Health Ministry shared the latest coronavirus figures indicating 1,564 new cases recorded in the previous 24 hours. This included 42 new deaths, bringing the total to 584. One thousand four active cases have been admitted at health facilities around the country. After presenting those figures in his national address, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni said Ugandans had been violating an earlier ban on interdistrict travel. In his speech, Museveni said every village has community health workers who are in touch with families and keep records on the health status of the villages. They know how many people are in the village, how many are pregnant, how many have children, etc. Private vehicles, other than those operated by essential workers will only be allowed to travel if they have permission from their local village chairman or health worker to transport a patient to hospital. “All cross-boundary district and intradistrict movement of public transport and by private vehicles or boda bodas is hereby suspended for 42 days starting today,” said Museveni. “Why 42 days? Because we know that this virus, once it doesn’t spread in 14 days, it gets out of your body.” The virus has significantly spread to 108 districts, out of which 20, including Kampala and Wakiso, have been most affected. Museveni noted that the country is experiencing very high hospitalization and death rates for COVID-19

patients among all age groups. He says Ugandans have not been serious and have not adhered to earlier COVID-19 directives. “I’m getting from all over the place . . . so and so has died, so and so has died. Imagine. And yet we told you,” said Museveni. Museveni also noted that the number of severely and critically ill COVID-19 patients has more than doubled, straining the health system, particularly the available oxygen supply. While an average non-COVID-19 patient requires one to two cylinders per day, a severely ill COVID-19 patient needs four to six cylinders per day. “With the estimated COVID-19 patient increase in the coming weeks, the daily oxygen consumption will rise to 25,000 cylinders per day in one month, unless we change the course. This is nearly a ninefold increase in the overall national oxygen requirement,” said Museveni. The Health Ministry this week indicated that they had secured $7 million from the Global Fund to install seven oxygen plants in the country. Unlike last year’s distribution of food to vulnerable city dwellers — an effort that did not reach many of the targeted people and spurred complaints about the food — Ugandans must use the little they have to survive the 42 days this time. Sarah Birete, executive director at Center for Constitutional Governance, criticizes Museveni’s directives, saying they are merely wish lists that will only worsen the already difficult situation for citizens. “It’s a good thing to do, but with no budget line, with no capacity, no arrangements,” said Birete. “The way our systems are normally disorganized, it’s a wish list and it’s going to risk people’s lives more. When you look at general limitation constraints on transport. You know people don’t want to engage with the LDUs [local defense units] and the way they treat people. So many people who do not want to be caught up in that fracas are likely to die in silence.”

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Unequal Risk

Unequal Risk: How Climate Change Hurts India’s Poor Most Roli Srivastava

In a monsoon ritual of sorts in India's financial capital, #MumbaiRain begins to trend on Twitter with the first showers—not because its residents are like weather- obsessed Londoners, but out of fear of the flooding that brings the bustling city to a standstill each year. Disastrous floods, deadly heatwaves and devastating cyclones are taking a heavy toll on lives and livelihood in India which faces rising “human and economic costs of climate change,” says a new report by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI). Researchers with the London-based global affairs think-tank said global warming is likely to have a negative effect on the country's GDP—and that cost will not be borne equally.

Already the country's poorest are the worst hit as temperatures rise, with their jobs, wages and health harmed by climate change, warned the ODI study, which reviewed evidence from existing papers on how climate change is affecting India.

How is climate change hurting India’s poor?

Last month, Cyclone Yaas raged along India’s eastern coast, destroying thousands of homes, inundating dozens of villages and making 150,000 people homeless. The destruction came within a few days of another cyclone, Tauktae, the most powerful to batter the west coast in two decades, that ripped out power pylons and trees, collapsed houses and killed more than 80 oil workers on a barge.

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Unequal Risk

The two extreme events were the latest in India’s cyclone calendar, which saw Amphan in 2020 batter the east coast, affecting 13 million people and causing over $13 billion in damage after it made landfall, the ODI report said. The poorest are at climate risk twice over. Not only do they account for most casualties when climatic disasters strike, they also suffer losses in farming incomes from damage to crops and land, according to the United Nations and the ODI report. About 70 percent of Indian households depend on agriculture for their livelihood, but they are struggling with lower yields owing to frequent droughts and lower rainfall, the report said. Besides, an increase in hard surfaces, including asphalt and cement, has worsened water scarcity by preventing percolation of rainfall into the soil and depleting groundwater levels amid rising heat, the report noted. This, in turn, is hitting harvests and farm laborers’ wages. Pushed out from villages with fewer jobs on the land, many seek work in cities where they live in poor conditions, largely invisible to urban planners and highly vulnerable to disasters such as the COVID-19 pandemic, according to migration experts. The urban poor, living in metal or asbestos-roofed huts in major Indian cities where the temperature can exceed 48 degrees Celsius, are seeing a growing threat to their lives and productivity from rising heat, the ODI report said. Climate change impacts in India could add about 50 million more poor people than otherwise projected by 2040 because of falling wages, rising food prices and slower economic growth, it warned.

flooding risk by researchers cited in the ODI report.

The city incurs annual losses of $284 million, while India has suffered a loss of $3 billion in the last decade from flooding, said the report titled The Costs of Climate Change in India. If global warming reaches 3 degrees Celsius, studies estimate that India’s GDP could contract by between 10 and 90 percent by 2100 due to a decline in agricultural activity, rising sea levels and other factors, it noted. Floods and landslides in India affected about 11.4 million hectares of farmland between 2018 and 2020, the Indian government told Parliament last year. Extreme weather cost India 2,000 lives and more than $37 billion in 2018, when the coastal state of Kerala was hit by the worst floods in a century and two cyclones pummelled the east coast, according to an annual climate risk index from sustainable development group Germanwatch. India has in recent years developed climate-resilient farming systems and improved its flood forecasting, according to government replies submitted in Parliament. Administrators of 140 Indian cities, meanwhile, are also being trained to consider climate risk when planning infrastructure projects, to tackle “increasing frequency of cyclones, floods, heat waves, water scarcity and drought-like conditions.” ∎ How is India responding to the growing threat?

ROLI SRIVASTAVA is a journalist with Thomson Reuters Foundation, Ex-The Hindu, andThe Times of India.

How much is climate change costing India?

Published with permission of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://

Mumbai, a city built on seven islands stitched together with massive areas reclaimed from the sea, was placed fifth among major coastal cities in the world for

Summer 2021 13

Pope Francis in Iraq

In his first speech in Iraq, Pope Francis called for an end to violence and extremism so that ordinary Iraqis can live, work, and pray in peace. Speaking to Iraqi government authorities from the hall of the Presidential Palace in Baghdad, the pope said that “religion, by its very nature, must be at the service of peace and fraternity.” “The name of God cannot be used to justify acts of murder, exile, terrorism and oppression,” Pope Francis said in Baghdad on March 5. “On the contrary, God, who created human beings equal in dignity and rights, calls us to spread the values of love, goodwill and concord.” POPE FRANCIS IN IRAQ “The Name of God Cannot Be Used to Justify Acts of Murder” Courtney Mares

Pope Francis releases a dove representing peace at the ruins of the Syriac Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception in Mosul, Iraq.

Pope Francis told the President of Iraq, Barham Ahmed Salih Qassim, and other local politicians and diplomats, that the Catholic Church in Iraq desires to be “a friend to all and, through interreligious dialogue, to cooperate constructively with other religions in serving the cause of peace.” “I come as a penitent, asking forgiveness of heaven and my brothers and sisters for so much destruction and cruelty,” the pope said. “I come as a pilgrim of peace in the name of Christ, the Prince of Peace. How much we have prayed in these years for peace in Iraq. St. John Paul II spared no initiatives and above all offered his prayers and sufferings for this intention.”

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Pope Francis in Iraq

The pope called for an end to “partisan interests” and “those outside interests uninterested in the local population.” “Give a voice to the builders and to the artisans of peace. The voice of the humble, the poor, the ordinary men and women who want to live, work and pray in peace.” “May there be an end to acts of violence and extremism, factions and intolerance,” Pope Francis said.

Security continues to be a major challenge facing Iraq, where the Islamic State continues to operate— albeit without any territory. Iran- backed militias also contribute to the current unstable security situation. The Islamic State claimed twin suicide bombings in Baghdad in January that killed 32 people. There are some 10,000 Islamic State fighters in the world, mostly in Iraq, UN counterterrorism

chief Vladimir Voronkov said in February. The pope’s meetings with Iraqi authorities come at a time when the country is also facing severe political and socioeconomic challenges, including a protest movement calling for an end to government corruption, high levels of unemployment, and the sectarian divisions within the political system established after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

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Pope Francis in Iraq

In 2019, Brazil was a world leader in reducing the impact of climate change. Political changes have brought that progress to an abrupt halt. According to Foreign Policy magazine, “Brazil depends more on renewable energy sources (including biofuels) than any of the world’s other large energy consumers. And

Pope Francis speaks to Iraqi religious figures during an interfaith service in the ancient city of Ur in southern Iraq’s Dhi Qar province, Nasiriya.

Pope Francis declared in his speech to Iraqi government leaders that it is “necessary, but not sufficient, to combat the scourge of corruption, misuse of power and disregard for law.” “At the same time, it is necessary to build justice, increase honesty, transparency and strengthen the institutions responsible for this,” the pope said. “In this way, stability within society grows and a healthy politics arises, able to offer to all, especially the young of whom there are so many

in this country, sure hope for a better future.” About 60 percent of Iraqi’s population is under the age of twenty-five. The unemployment rate for young people in Iraq is estimated to be 36 percent, according to a report published by the Atlantic Council in February. Low oil prices, government waste and corruption, and a poor security situation further hinder the country’s potential for economic growth.

There were about 150 people present for the pope’s speech at the presidential palace, according to the Vatican. This palace was spared during the 2003 bombing of Baghdad by the United States and later became the headquarters of the coalition forces during the occupation of Iraq. “Over the past several decades, Iraq has suffered the disastrous effects of wars, the scourge of terrorism and sectarian conflicts often grounded in a fundamentalism incapable of accepting the peaceful coexistence of different ethnic and religious

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Pope Francis in Iraq

“Over the past several decades, Iraq has suffered the disastrous effects of wars, the scourge of terrorism and sectarian conflicts often grounded in a fundamentalism incapable of accepting the peaceful coexistence of different ethnic and religious groups, different ideas and cultures. All this has brought in its wake death, destruction and ruin, not only materially: the damage is so much deeper if we think of the heartbreak endured by so many individuals and communities, and wounds that will take years to heal. Here, among so many who have suffered, my thoughts turn to the Yazidis, innocent victims of senseless and brutal atrocities, persecuted and killed for their religion, and whose very identity and survival was put at risk. Only if we learn to look beyond our differences and see each other as members of the same human family, will we be able to begin an effective process of rebuilding and leave to future generations a better, more just and more humane world. In this regard, the religious, cultural and ethnic diversity that has been a hallmark of Iraqi society for millennia is a precious resource on which to draw, not an obstacle to be eliminated. Iraq today is called to show everyone, especially in the Middle East, that diversity, instead of giving rise to conflict, should lead to harmonious cooperation in the life of society.” Pope Francis Calls for Peace, Reconciliation, Cooperation

groups, different ideas and cultures,” Pope Francis said. “All this has brought in its wake death, destruction and ruin, not only materially: the damage is so much deeper if we think of the heartbreak endured by so many individuals and communities, and wounds that will take years to heal.” The pope highlighted the “age-old presence of Christians” in Iraq and said that “their participation in public life, as citizens with full rights, freedoms and responsibilities” will testify to healthy pluralism and “contribute to the nation’s prosperity and harmony.” Pope Francis also pointed to the suffering endured by the Yazidis, who he said were “innocent victims of senseless and brutal atrocities, persecuted and killed for their religion, and whose very identity and survival was put at risk.” “Only if we learn to look beyond our differences and see each other as members of the same human family, will we be able to begin an effective process of rebuilding and leave to future generations a better, more just and more humane world,” he said.

diversity that has been a hallmark of Iraqi society for millennia is a precious resource on which to draw, not an obstacle to be eliminated.” “Iraq today is called to show everyone, especially in the Middle East, that diversity, instead of giving rise to conflict, should lead to harmonious cooperation in the life of society.” The pope also expressed gratitude to all humanitarian organizations who have worked to provide assistance to refugees, internally displaced persons, and worked to meet the basic needs of the poor. “It is my prayerful hope that the international community will not withdraw from the Iraqi people the outstretched hand of friendship and constructive engagement, but will continue to act in a spirit of shared responsibility with the local authorities, without imposing political or ideological interests,” the pope said. ∎

COURTNEY MARES is a Rome Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. A graduate of Harvard University, she was awarded the Gardner Fellowship for her work with North Korean refugees.

“In this regard, the religious, cultural and ethnic

Summer 2021 17

United in Prayer

United in Prayer Catholic News Agency

Newly Appointed Comboni Bishop Shares a Message of Forgiveness for Attackers

The Bishop-Elect of Rumbek, who is in a Nairobi hospital recovering from gunshot injuries, sought to reassure his local Church that he is out of danger, and that he plans to return to the South Sudanese diocese. In an April 27 ACI Africa video recording from his hospital bed, Fr. Christian Carlassare described the injuries he received April 26 as life-threatening, and urged reconciliation and “justice with the same heart of God.”

“I take the chance to greet all of you, my brothers and sisters, in Rumbek. I want you to be at peace to know that I’m well here in the hospital in Nairobi,” Fr. Carlassare said, adding that he is receiving good medical care, and he is improving. “It will take some time for my legs to be able again to walk but I assure you that I will be back and I will be with you.” Fr. Carlassare, 43, was appointed

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United in Prayer

Bishop of Rumbek March 8. He traveled to the Rumbek diocese April 15 following a retreat in Juba. His episcopal consecration was to have taken place May 23. He was reportedly the main target of two gunmen who gained access to his room in the early hours of April 26 by shooting multiple bullets through his door in the rectory of the Holy Family Cathedral in Rumbek. He was shot in both legs. In the ACI Africa video, Fr. Carlassare said, “Let us be united in prayer; let us be united with all our hearts to uphold forgiveness in our community.”

is not just being naive and leaving aside errors but correct errors not with violence, but with dialogue and forgiveness. I feel that the community of Rumbek needs much forgiveness to be able to dialogue and to come together,” Fr. Carlassare told ACI Africa April 27. He said, “Certainly, justice is a great element and we need always to seek justice, but not always justice will really heal the heart of a person. Justice must be always accompanied by mercy because the medicine of the human relationship is given by mercy more than justice.” He went on to express his gratitude to all those who have offered prayer for his healing and recovery including “the Pope that mentioned me in his prayers

He described God’s heart as “a merciful heart that can teach peace and can teach mercy to any person, because these values are present in the depth of each one of us.” “As I’m far from you, I feel united to you. Please also be

and many other people that made themselves present, the President of South Sudan, comprising also him and for his attention to me.” The bishop-elect urged those who have expressed solidarity with him in prayer “to believe always in the goodness of every person” and cautioned those who reside “outside Rumbek, never to think that Rumbek is more violent than the other places just because of

“This is the mission of the Church and the Church has never to fear to proclaim the word of the gospel of peace and unity. And we have to be ready to offer our lives for that without fear.”

united with me in this process of reconciliation,” the bishop-elect said. Speaking to ACI Africa at his hospital bed, Fr. Carlassare recalled his experiences since the threat on his life saying, “It has really been difficult to face this situation, to face death and to face all the problems that will come out from this shooting. But what made me to suffer most was the suffering of all the community of Rumbek.” Recalling his message to those who visited him in hospital in Rumbek following his shooting, the bishop- elect said that the people of God in the diocese “did not deserve this; that they were in pain because of my bullets in the leg, but they saw that Rumbek was much more in pain than I was.” “I called to the government and the community and all the people of Rumbek asking for forgiveness: to forgive those that committed this act, forgiveness that

this incident but Rumbek has great riches and values that they can also make them to become fruitful.” Fr. Carlassare said, “This is the mission of the Church and the Church has never to fear to proclaim the word of the gospel of peace and unity. And we have to be ready to offer our lives for that without fear.” “I have been welcomed wonderfully by the people in the first days in which I arrived,” he said, adding, “I passed some days joyfully because I saw a very rich diocese with many activities that are in place and many potentialities.” He explained, “I really see that Rumbek has a great future. The people of Rumbek should never play themselves down. They are really in a very favorable situation to have a good journey as a Church.” ∎

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Around the Province

Around the Province Lindsay Bra d We have so much to celebrate this summer—new projects, reopenings, and so many anniversaries! This July, Fr. John Converset celebrated 50 years of ordination. Fr. Jorge Ochoa celebrated 25 years. With a combined 235 years of missionary experience, these men have a lot of wisdom to share with us. Congratulations!

Fr. Aldo Pozza - 55 years Born in Padova, Italy Ordained June 26, 1966

being assigned to Peru. Now Fr. Louie works for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati supporting the Hispanic Ministry. Fr. Louie’s advice to those discerning a call to the missionary life is “Don’t have any plans, be open to anything. God will surprise you at every curve. If you have a plan of your own you might be disappointed. You got to be open to change or you will be frustrated all your life.” In 1994, when Fr. Louie was sent to Peru, he didn’t want to go at first. In the end though, Fr. Louie explained that “it was the best experience of my life. I learned Spanish and use that in my ministry here [in Cincinnati] serving the Hispanic community.” He went on to say that “I thank God. God has been good to me all along and still is.”

Fr. Aldo Pozza’s missionary experience has been filled with many ups and downs. Like many of his brothers before him, Aldo had a strong desire to join the priesthood. He didn’t know if he would meet the requirements of the seminary though. “I found my way through the

inspiration of the Holy Spirit,” Fr. Aldo said. Early on in his missionary career, Fr. Aldo experienced a great loss. His brother, Fr. Mario Pozza died in an accident while trying to save a young boy in Uganda. After this loss, Fr. Aldo considered leaving. “Should I stay or go? But then the thought came ‘but where would I go?’” This missionary calling was too strong to ignore. Through the years Fr. Aldo has worked in Uganda and the United States. He now helps teach the catechumens at our mission center in Covina, California. Fr. Louie Gasparini - 55 years Born in Verona, Italy Ordained May 28, 1966 Fr. Louie Gasparini started his

Fr. John Converset - 50 years Born in Fort Wayne, Indiana Ordained July 31, 1971

The life of a Comboni Missionary is filled with many triumphs and challenges. For Fr. John some of the brightest, most joyful times were when he was organizing and giving retreats at Maria Trost Pastoral Center in South Africa from 1978-1981.

missionary journey at a young age when he attended a Comboni high school seminary in Italy. He came to the United States as a young man and spent his early missionary years in Uganda. He worked in the United States from 1972 to 1994 before

During these eight day, personal retreats Fr. John would meet with 5-7 people for reflection and direction. They often followed the Ignation examen and spirituality to help guide these retreats. “If you ever had a doubt God existed, you just had to watch what God was doing in these retreats. It was fantastic. You can always see God at work.”

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Around the Province

Over the years Fr. John has had the privilege to conduct retreats in different languages, across many different countries and cultures. He’s also led CharismWorkshops for more than 20 religious congregations. These workshops take a deep dive into the history of the congregation, looking into the life of the founder and the historical background of when the congregation was founded. “It’s fantastic seeing how these people share the experience of their charism, and in the end come to a common statement. It’s intensive work, but very fascinating,” Fr. John said. “I’ve learned so much about congregations, especially how God works with different people in different situations.” Fr. John has spent many years ministering to people in South Africa. For the past 21-years he has worked in the United States. He now lives at the Cincinnati Mission Center and recently started serving as the chaplain for the Sisters of Divine Providence in Melbourne, Kentucky.

Fr. Mussie’s time at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago was also very rewarding. There he met students from different African countries, South America, Latin America, and even students from throughout the United States. Being able to interact and learn from so many different nationalities and cultures, “informed me a lot, building my missionary life,” Fr. Mussie said.

Fr. Jorge Ochoa - 25 years Born in Cleveland, Ohio Ordained August 10, 1996 If someone is discerning a call to the missionary life Fr. Jorge’s advice is “not to be afraid to follow Jesus.” Often times we want to have everything under control, but when it comes to helping others it is important to listen to God. Fr. Jorge explained that “When we

Fr. Mussie Abraham - 40 years Born in Asmara, Eritrea Ordained May 31, 1981 For the past forty years, Fr. Mussie has lived out his missionary vocation in his home country of Eritrea, as well as Ethiopia, Uganda, and the North American Province. For the past two years he has served the parishes of St. Joseph and St. Anne in Kitchener, Ontario. Living the missionary life for so many

feel the invitation to help people, you feel peace with yourself, you feel happy. Just trust completely what you are feeling. Be open to the Spirit of God, to wherever God is going to take you. Will there be difficulties? Yes. Will it be hard? Yes. But there will be a lot of joy, happiness and fulfillment. Have lots of faith in God. It will make you happy. You won’t find that anywhere else.”

Fr. Jerome Soku - 10 years Born in Kisangani, Democratic Republic of Congo Ordained May 29, 2011 “The unexpected thing about being a Comboni Missionary is the closeness with the people of God. I have been trained to be very pastoral and by doing so I realized that always God surprises us in different ways. We find more good people and they open up our minds to understand the world and God.”

years comes with many surprises. “First I will say that I am happy to be a missionary,” Fr. Mussie explained. “The surprising thing I think is the going to different cultures. My first time was going out from Eritrea to Ethiopia. It was a different culture, language, way of dressing. It gave me, for the first time, an appreciation of different cultures.” Early in his studies, Fr. Mussie lived among the Karamojong in Uganda. He described how they live so simply - among their cows (which are very important socially) and within a specific family setting. “In a way it is not poverty, but the simplicity of life. Just to appreciate all those things that were so different from mine,” Fr. Mussie explained.

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Supporting the Mission

A Grateful Heart



Heather Kaufman It had been 18 months—approximately 548 days—since we were last able to hold an in-person event. Finally, after months of quarantine and the breakthrough vaccinations, health mandates were lifted and safe gathering made possible. In Cincinnati at the headquarters of our North American Province, we recognized this milestone by having a Mass and luncheon for the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart. I can’t think of a more fitting way to remember Jesus’s love for us than to gather and celebrate together. I was grateful to see many friends and volunteers choosing to make one of their first outings after COVID with us, to remember this special occasion. As we worshipped together during Mass and feasted together during lunch I was reminded of how lucky we are to have such wonderful friends. Seeing all of you back in the building felt like a defibrillator had shocked life back into the place. Our hearts (and bellies) were full! I don’t want to diminish the love and support we felt during these trying times. Your prayers and generosity assisted countless people throughout the world providing food, medicine, oxygen tanks and clean water to those not only suffering during the pandemic but for the already vulnerable who are easily forgotten. You quietly performed life-saving CPR to many missions keeping their ministries alive with your kindness. Now that our corner of the world is opening back up I am excited to spend more time with our friends, planning events and thanking God for the opportunity to share His love with the world.





If you are interested in volunteering for the Comboni Missionaries, please contact your local community. ∎


HEATHER KAUFMAN is director of development for the Comboni Missionaries, North American Province.


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If you feel called to share the joy of the Gospel with those most in need through a life of service as a Comboni Missionary, we invite you to learn more about our charism, mission, and way of life. To learn more about becoming a Comboni priest or brother, contact the headquarters of the North American Province in Cincinnati, Ohio, at (513) 474-4997, or visit our website at

If you are enquiring about life as a Comboni Missionary Sister, please contact their Richmond, Virginia, location at (804) 266-2975. For more about the lay missionary adven- ture, please contact Paul Wheeler, director of the Comboni Lay Missionary program, at (708) 588-1602, or visit www.laymission- We invite your interest, ques- tions, prayers, and support ! ∎


Comboni Mission Center 1318 Nagel Road Cincinnati, Ohio 45255 (513) 474-4997 Saint Boniface Parish 1750 Chase Avenue Cincinnati, Ohio 45223 (513) 541-1563

Comboni Mission Center 645 S. Aldenville Avenue Covina, California 91723 (626) 339-1914

Comboni Mission Center 1615 E. 31st Street La Grange Park, Illinois 60526 (708) 354-1999 St. Lucy Parish 118 7th Avenue Newark, New Jersey 07104 (973) 803-4200 St. Joseph Parish 148 Madison Avenue South Kitchener, Ontario N2G 3M6 (519) 744-4680

Holy Cross Parish 4705 South Main Street Los Angeles, California 90037 (323) 234-5984 Sacred Heart Parish 9935 Mission Boulevard Riverside, California 92509 (951) 685-5058

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