We had planned this issue of Women Church World before we heard the terrible news of the three Italian sisters, Lucia Pulici, Olga Raschietti and Bernardetta Boggian, killed in their convent at Kamenge, Burundi. In these pages we wanted to give an account – as best we can – of the self-denial, courage and heroism of the women religious who chose for their witness of faith the great continent of Africa (where Catholics are a minority).
And here they live, work and help the local populations and people of other religions in situations of unimaginable difficulty and danger. Sr Elvira Tutolo told us about it in simple, terrible words from Berberati in the Central African Republic. “There are homicides, tortures, and rapes – even of minors – and forced marriages and, in addition, the sacking of churches, missions, offices, homes and of the few businesses that existed. Even our cultural centre”, she reported, “was targeted”. And yet they resist, fighting illness, death and ignorance, like Marie Stella Kouak, a Tongolese religious, who every day faces the desperation and hope of AIDS victims. A small mission is often to be found in the remotest villages at the end of a dirt track. It will have two or three sisters, a clean courtyard, a coffee machine on the hob and good biscuits, recounted Alessandra Ferri, a psychologist who has worked in Africa with the sisters for 20 years and testifies in the article she sent to us not only to the difficulties and drama of life here, but also to the results – great and small – achieved by the women religious. “Let us not leave Africa alone”, Pope Francis said recently, referring to the terrible epidemic of Ebola that has struck so many countries in a continent already badly wounded. Many women religious are already there to witness to their faith and to alleviate so many worries in the simplest and most practical way and for this very reason are exceptional and heroic, makobo na makobo which in the local language, Sr Elvira informed us, means hand in hand and heart close to heart. (r.a.)
St. Peter’s Square
Aug. 19, 2019
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