Sunday, July 31, 2011

AFRICA: ETHIOPIA: 150TH ANNIVERSARY OF ST. JUSTIN DE JACOBIS

Fides Service report - Tomorrow, July 31 the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, His Exc. Mgr. Fernando Filoni, will conclude the cycle of celebrations in the church of san fele for the 150th anniversary of St. Justin De Jacobis, evangelist in Ethiopia.
To better understand the figure of the saint here are some excerpts of his biography from the site of the Italian Catholic Church.
St. Justin de Jacobis was born in San Fele (Potenza)on October 9, 1800.
Around 1812, he and his family moved to Naples, perhaps for economic reasons. During the beginning of his literary and humanistic studies, Justin was drawn by an intense participation in the spiritual life and that was how, in 1818, the Carmelite Father Mariano Cacace understood the vocation of the young man, directing him to the community of Vincentian missionaries. Continuing his studies, Justin moved to Puglia and it was in this land in 1824 in Oria, he was ordained a priest. In 1836 he returned to Naples, while a cholera epidemic decimated the city up to 100 people a day; even in that circumstance, the priest demonstrated his spirit of dedication to the many sufferers who the Vincentians directly took care of.
In 1838, the Vincentian Father Joseph Sapeto embarked on a mission to Massawa and, realizing the strong commitment that this entailed, he informed Pope Gregory XVI on several occasions about the need to strengthen it. So it was then that Cardinal Fransoni, Prefect of the Congregation of Rome, after meeting randomly in Naples Justin de Jacobis and having appreciated his outstanding virtues, proposed to the general director of the Vincentians to invite Justin to accept the mission in Ethiopia. De Jacobis who had previously expressed a desire to go on foreign missions, accepted the invitation. On May 24, 1839 he began his journey to Ethiopia and, through Malta, Naxos (Greece), Syria, Alexandria, Cairo and Massawa, on October 13 Justin arrived at Adowa, where he met Father Joseph Sapeto, founder of the mission. Justin touched the region of Tigray, and settled at Adowa.
After Adowa, Justin and his large number of indigenous followers founded other missionary centers in Gondar, Enticciò, Guala, Alitiena, Hala, Hebo, Keren. A Guala, in particular, Justin founded his own seminary to ensure a place where priests of the native place got to know Catholic beliefs. With this realization, the priest satisfied his strong belief that, as he himself wrote, "A priest from Abyssinia, deeply Catholic and sufficiently trained, thanks to his perfect knowledge of the language, customs and prejudices of his countrymen - knowledge that a European is not likely to have- works with much higher success than that of a European". Of all the places visited in the missionary life of Justin de Jacobis, the town of Hebo holds great importance, to the point that his remains are there preserved and venerated by pilgrims from every area of Ethiopia.
On January 8, 1849, Justin was ordained a Bishop. On July 1854, an edict was issued which required the people to adhere to the schismatic faith, otherwise the missionaries would have had to immediately leave Ethiopia. The missionaries ignored the imposition of Ras and were arrested. Justin spent 4 months in a tiny cell. The hatred and cruelty with which the missionaries were treated, however, created a strong sense of disapproval on behalf of the population and so it was in November 1854 that Justin was released from prison.
After the death of his brother Ghebre Michael due to the tortures in prison - the Church, on September 30, 1926, included him in the book of the blessed -, Justin returned to Gondar, and there he devoted himself, in assisting the sick of cholera, which broke out in 1858. He died on July 31, 1860 in the Alghedien Valley, along the path that leads from Massawa to the plateau of Hala. (L.M.)

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