Saturday, September 18, 2010

AFRICA: ETHIOPIA: APOSTOLIC VICAR SPEAKS ON DEVELOPMENT

Agenzia Fides report – An Apostolic Vicariate with an area approximately one third the size of Italy is Awassa, Ethiopia. Fides has asked its Apostolic Vicar, Bishop Giovanni Migliorati, in Rome for the Seminar of newly appointed bishops organized by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (see Fides 06/09/2010), a few questions about his ministry in the area. Bishop Migliorati, could you tell us about your Vicariate? The Vicariate of Awassa covers a surface area of 118,000 square kilometers and is a largely mountainous area. The population is divided into several ethnic groups. 6 different languages are spoken in the region. I speak 2 and am able to read the other 4. All the liturgical and pastoral activities take place in the local languages. So, when I preach in a language that I cannot speak, I use an interpreter, and to celebrate, I just read what is written in the language missal. What about evangelization? It is an area of recent evangelization, as the evangelization effort was launched in 1964 by the Comboni missionaries. Of about 8 million people, Catholics are 190,000. So, first we have to consolidate the process of evangelization, deepening the faith of Catholics, and then we have to be open to the first evangelization, especially in light of the 30% of people who adhere to traditional African religion. In the northern part of the Vicariate, the population is more open to the Gospel message, while the populations of the south are a bit more reluctant to accept it. What are the main difficulties faced by pastoral workers? The difficulties arise from the size of the territory, which is largely mountainous. Although in recent years the road system has improved, it is difficult to reach all the Catholic communities around the Vicariate, especially since the number of priests is so small. We have 14 diocesan priests and 32 missionaries from various congregations, so the formation of the laity, especially catechists, is also important. In the Vicariate, we have 500 catechists who play a key role especially in those communities where there is no permanent presence of the priest. The 19 parish territories of the Vicariate are divided into 500 'sub-parishes' or chapels where the catechists lead the community in prayer. The priest can visit these communities once every two months. How is the Gospel message transmitted in such a complex situation? The Gospel message is transmitted through the activities of human promotion undertaken by the Church. We have 12 health centers managed by Catholics, which treat 30,000 patients per month. On an educational level, there are 43 Catholic schools which we heavily depend upon because we want the youth, who represent the future, to not only receive an education but also the values of faith. Our concern is indeed to promote integral human development, based on Gospel values. The female religious congregations play an important role in the advancement of women and children, through courses on hygiene and family education. We place a great emphasis on this work, as the family is the nuclesus of the Christian community. In Awassa, of about 200,000 inhabitants, there are 17,000 college students. Our city is home to a state university and a university hospital. Many young Catholics come to the city from the countryside to study. We are building a youth center, to give students a reference point to help them live their faith together. The interreligious relations are good, but there are different sects that attract young people with tempting, yet superficial, proposals. Christianity is deep, but also demanding. In the long run, however, it is the faith that really responds to man's deepest needs. http://www.fides.org/aree/news/newsdet.php?idnews=27446&lan=eng

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