At the nunciature, the cardinal met on Sunday afternoon with the local religious congregations and their assistants: children, the elderly, young people, handicapped or abandoned by their families on the charge of witchcraft: “You are an example of the love that multiply itself”. To all, the Secretary of State brought the Pope’s comfort: “I will ask him to pray for you”.
Salvatore Cernuzio – Sent to Kinshasa
When the nuns found him outside the door of their home on a Holy Saturday morning several years ago, Guy’s body was covered in flies and sores. He had been abandoned by his parents who accused him of witchcraft after the death of his two brothers within a few days. Beaten to death, they had sprinkled him with hot water; Stunned, the family abandons her on a sidewalk. The Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus treated him in a medical center. Today Guy teaches French to young people and asks them to pray for the conversion of his family.
Stories of rejection and suffering
Sunday afternoon, he smiled under the caresses of Cardinal Pietro Parolin who met him at the apostolic nunciature of Kinshasa, in the company of a representative of the local religious congregations and their assistants. After the morning mass, the Secretary of State made a point of dedicating his last appointment of the trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo to the most bruised humanity. The elderly, children, single women with their children, couples, adolescents, all united by the single common denominator of suffering. This takes the form of rejection and social stigma, illness and intellectual disability, abandonment even by family members. A suffering sometimes healed only by love and without even specific medical care – lacking, among other things, the economic resources to support them – by religious congregations and ecclesial realities that compensate for a great institutional void.
Human beings who, said Parolin, “passed from death to life, from humiliation to dignity, from sadness to joy”. Throughout the appointment, the cardinal distributed hugs and blessings, greeted men and women in wheelchairs, patted boys on the cheek with blank eyes. In return, he received songs, thanks and a necklace of purple roses, a typically Indian gift placed around his neck by the Missionaries of Charity. They and the other nuns took turns at the microphone to tell their story of service “after the example of Christ”.
The daughters of Saint Joseph of Genoni and the street children
The daughters of Saint Joseph of Genoni are members of a hospital congregation founded in 1888 in Sardinia. It is active on four continents. Sister Marie Chimène spoke on their behalf and illustrated her commitment to children commonly called “street children” that they prefer to call “children of God”. They go looking for them in the dusty streets of the Congolese capital, also recovering abandoned boys who sleep under the trees. young people who “no longer have a home or a family, because they were expelled or for other reasons that we don’t always know, given the great suffering that prevents them from speaking. Some have even been kidnapped and then abandoned. We try to offer a regular hot meal, training in hygiene and civic education and we teach them to pray”, explained Sister Marie. She introduced the story of Mordecai, on the street at 11 – he is now 14 – who dreams of becoming a pilot, or those of Marthe and Nathalie, two blood sisters whose mother preferred to get rid of them, leaving them on the sidewalks.
Assistance to “witchers” from the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
The same streets on which roam the “witchers”, those who are accused of being witches, perhaps only for not being able to walk properly, and for this reason rejected by their families. They are collected by the Hospitallers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, who founded the Telema Center for these people to prevent them from eating out of garbage cans or being exposed to physical and sexual violence. Guy is one of the guests; with him also Joséphine, who ended up living on the streets after a depression, without bathing for years, wearing torn clothes, feeding on garbage cans. “One day, one of our sisters met her, took her to our community called Bethany, took care of her and then took her to Téléma. A month later, she had regained her smile, her dignity. Three months later, she was reintegrated into her family, now she has a small business”.
A story of redemption and rebirth, like those reported to the cardinal by Sister Claudia Nicoli, a Bergamasque nun of the Sisters of the Poor, present in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 1952. She has been in Africa since 1996, to replace nuns who died of the virus Ebola in Kikwit where they served the sick. “When the epidemic started, two of them who were in Kinshasa went to Kikwit, 500 km away, knowing full well that they could die. The staff told them: “If you leave, you could die”. They answered: What has the Lord done for us?. For 46 years, the “Poverelle” have had a retirement home which welcomes those whom others reject, in particular malnourished children, orphans, the homeless, the elderly. Those whom Sister Claudia calls “our grandparents”. “Poverty dehumanizes society. The young, the sick, the elderly, who have nothing to offer their families, are set aside and abandoned. With us, they are welcomed like parents..
The reception of the Missionaries of Charity
The Missionaries of Charity also spoke at the nunciature. Present in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 1987, brought by Mother Teresa deeply touched by the material and moral misery encountered in the country, they have three refuges for those who suffer from “all kinds of poverty”. They presented to Cardinal Parolin a young man found when he was 18 years old and who was walking naked in the streets, his body covered with wounds. “He was violent, he broke the benches and scared everyone. Gradually he calmed down and started talking.. Now he has “completely changed”, he lives at home, plays music at Sunday mass, works in a real estate agency and is soon to be married. The cardinal salutes and blesses him. He also did it for Martine, whom the missionaries found behind the door in a box, and for Kizito, 14, welcomed at 9, hyperkinetic: “He would talk non-stop for hours and was hard to control. Now he is able to carry out some household activities..
The “Dream” center of Sant’Egidio
Finally, representatives of the Sant’Egidio community spoke to the Secretary of State about the Dream project for HIV-positive patients. Thanks to an assistance centre, created in 2011, more than 1,700 people suffering from AIDS, but also from malnutrition, hypertension, diabetes, malaria and tuberculosis are treated free of charge. During the Covid pandemic, the center remained open and its laboratory was used to diagnose the virus or to take samples. Volunteers are currently engaged with health personnel in a vast sensitization and vaccination campaign in markets, ports, health centers.
To all these people, Cardinal Parolin, speaking with visible emotion, assured: “I will certainly bring your names and faces to Pope Francis, asking him to carry you in his prayers, giving thanks to God for the wonders he has done for you” . “The universal Church thanks you and encourages you to persevere in your works, even at the cost of difficulties and apparent failures”said the cardinal. “In your daily life you experience how love, when shared, does not divide or run out, but multiplies and grows”.
“Your names sound like so many beautiful musical notes in the song of thanks that we must present to God each day”added the cardinal. “Just when you thought all could be lost, light and life came into your pain and changed everything. Of course, not everything is rosy and you still have to face difficult times, perhaps a lot of anxieties and fears of tomorrow. But God has opened a new path for each of you, he has put you back on your feet and invites you to continue to walk with him. He held out his hand to you, don’t let go..
We want to give thanks to the writer of this write-up for this outstanding material
Parolin and the poor and sick of Kinshasa: “You have passed from death to life” – Vatican News
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