It is no longer only Africa and other distant lands to be evangelized that are on the horizon. Today Comboni's traditional ideal missionary, summed up in his motto “Saving Africa with Africa”, must reckon with the new reality of secularization that is rapidly invading regions and territories of ancient Christian faith. In this perspective, from 7 to 17 February, the Combonian European Assembly for Missionary Animation and Evangelization was held in Pesaro, Italy. About 50 missionaries who have been for years at the service of the peoples and Churches in Africa and in Latin America questioned themselves on their place today in society and in the European Churches, aiming to define common lines for a renewed mission project and a more effective Combonian presence in Europe.
Scenes are changing. The Europe of financial markets, of new technologies, of the rejection of foreigners and of globalization which excludes, is in fact the new mission land in which the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus are called to embark on a new evangelization. Moreover the changes that have occurred in recent decades in society and in the Church – as was pointed out at the meeting – are a challenge to profoundly renew the way of understanding and of putting into practice that essential dimension of the Combonian charism which is missionary animation. Indeed, the vision of the mission as a privileged pathway for the proclamation of the Gospel and the promotion of the values of the Kingdom of God has broadened the concept of missionary animation, intending it as an incentive for the Church and for society so that they may work for life in all its dimensions.
“If on other continents we are facing a scandalous poverty, linked to phenomena such as hunger, various kinds of social and economic injustice, diseases that reap a heavy toll of victims, shortages of educational opportunities for the young generations and so forth, in Europe there are other forms of poverty that are perhaps even more serious: poverty of values, poverty of the sense of life, an incapacity for sharing, the quest for power and pleasure and the insatiable possession of material goods”.
In this perspective, Fr Alberto Pelucchi, Vicar General of the Institute, emphasized “the importance of the witness of life in the Combonian communities and in the individual missionaries, whose quality depends first of all on fraternal life, on a profound spiritual renewal and on openness to the peoples”. And addressing the Comboni Missionaries who work in Europe, he said that they can no longer “limit themselves to the traditional missionary animation”, recounting what they do elsewhere, and that “the time has come to live as missionaries here in Europe, committing themselves on the spot in ways similar to those practised in the South of the World”. Lastly, Fr Pelucchi expressed the hope that in Europe in the future “new openings, that is, new projects for missionary presence”, might increasingly take shape, responding in practice, in close collaboration with the local Churches, to the different needs of evangelization.
Also taking part in the meeting were Archbishop Piero Coccia of Pesaro who, underlining the importance of collaboration among missionaries and the local Church, pointed out that the new evangelization is “a challenge for everyone”. Indeed, “we are all somewhat afraid. In fact, we know what we are leaving behind but we do not know what awaits us. It is basically a matter of presenting the experience of faith anew in such a way that the individual and Christian communities may express it in culture and in the experience of daily life. We must interweave the Gospel and life in a new and creative way.