Agenzia Fides REPORT - “A historic day for the Diocese of Ziguinchor,” recounts Fr Bruno Favero to Fides, director of the Pontifical Mission for Senegal and Mauritania, who describes how on 12 December in Ziguinchor, the capital of Casamance, three important events took place for the Church: the foundation of a Sanctuary, the establishment of a diocesan pilgrimage and the arrival a valuable and impressive statue of the Virgin Mary.
Fr Favero sent a note to Fides about the event: “It all started with the ardent and shared desire of the late Bishop Maixent Coly, Bishop of the diocese in 2000 when the diocesan Sanctuary of Ziguinchor, dedicated to “Our Lady of Peace in Temento”, became the Sanctuary of the newly formed Diocese of Kolda.
Ten years later, building on the extensive experience of the inter-diocesan pilgrimage that is held the third Sunday of Lent in Temento, the Diocese of Ziguinchor wanted to find a site to build its sanctuary and start conducting a pilgrimage in his own diocese. Meanwhile, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, who Bishop Coly requested in 1999 to take care of the sanctuary and mission in Temento, settled in the Diocese of Ziguinchor, in Elinkine. The Oblates were accompanied by a large statue of the Virgin Mary, donated by a community from the “Présentation de Marie de France”. Thus there were all the elements to realize the dream of Bishop Maixent Coly, who died suddenly after an illness on 24 August, 2010.
This long introduction is necessary to understand what happened in Elinkine on 12 December. A crowd of pilgrims gathered to welcome the Virgin Mary, under the guidance of Bishop François Jacolin of Mende on his visit to the diocese. The number of faithful was well above the expectations of the organizers. Regional and local administrative authorities, Muslims and those from other Christian churches - priests and religious, the faithful and the curious - they all gathered at Mary's feet. When the Bishop unveiled the statue, a spontaneous standing ovation greeted the Mother of God and sincere emotion was felt by the crowd. The day was accompanied by a sober Liturgy, punctuated by songs and Diola folklore, and by fervent prayer.
The Sanctuary is dedicated to Our Lady of the Mission. Why Our Lady of the Mission? The current mission of the Church continues to be emphasized by Pope Benedict XVI and in our pastoral care planning, where 'witness' and 'mission' are keywords to discover and experience. The mission was not completed, in fact it seems to be at the beginning. The new evangelization is a specific requirement for today, both in Countries of ancient Christian tradition where faith seems to have disappeared, and in our Country where the Gospel needs first of all to take root and find the best way to be embodied. Our Lady of the Mission comes to meet these expectations and challenges. With Mary - who is mother and model for those who follow the Lord - we want to give a breath of life to the path of evangelization. In his homily, the Bishop explained why and how Mary continues to be authentically missionary and how to participate in an extraordinary way in the realization of the Father's plan and in the mission of her Son Jesus.”