The fifth historical meeting of the Salesian bishops, as one of the highlights of the Bicentenary of Don Bosco’s Birthday, is going on at Valdocco. A moving Eucharist presided by archbishop of Torino, Cesare Nosiglia open the second day in the Cathedral of Torino. After the end of the morning session today, the EAO bishops were invited for the Rector major’s table for lunch. A unique chance, when the periphery becomes the center! It was a wonderful time of enjoying family spirit and fraternity with Fr. Ángel and other brother bishops who are living at distance of thousands of kilometers!
The holiness of the Salesian bishop was highlighted by the Postulator general. Fr. Pier Luigi Cameroni simply shared life story of Saint Luigi Versiglia, Salesian bishop and martyr and other six SDB bishops are among the 166 Salesian family Saints, Blessed and Servants of God. As visible signs of striving for holiness Fr. Cameroni also showed also the Rosary and Cilice (sackcloth) of St. Bishop Versiglia. And his newly published book.
The peak of this day was the sharing of the Rector Major with a following opportunity for open forum to the bishops. The 140 confreres of Oceania recent visit of the Rector Major might be familiar with this style of interaction.
‘We have a wonderful, beautiful Congregation!’ (=Abbiamo una Congregazione bellissima!) This strong personal believe was followed by a spontaneous applause of the bishops. It was really an uplifting Salesian experience with the successor of Don Bosco in his straightforward style of interaction.
Fr. Ángel underlined by numerous fruits of the Salesian mission and life witness around the world: ‘How much good is done through our life witness, sometimes even in spite of our weaknesses or thanks to the cooperation of many lay mission partners’. Rector Major shared some striking examples of our confreres being close to the youth in extremely difficult situations in South Sudan, Tunisia, Iran, Pakistan or Sierra Leone. Some bishops contributed with their questions about initial formation, Salesian availability to open new presences in some countries without Don Bosco or asking about other beautiful challenges of the Congregation today.
Among the participants there are some bishops who never visited the Holy Places of Don Bosco. Also among the EAO bishops we find one, who is enjoying the discovery of Salesian DNA – our roots in Valdocco today and tomorrow in Becchi. During these days are at Valdocco employed not less than 200 volunteers in yellow uniforms (both SDB and lay mission partners) under the guidance of two Spanish confreres (new rector and new in charge of the hospitality). Their professional help in various languages is highly appreciated also by EAO bishops. Even in the streets of Turin, while walking this morning from the St. Francis of Assisi Church to Valdocco (20 minute walk), we met the kindness of Turin people in the streets. It’s nice to hear in perfect English similar greetings like -‘What can I do for you?’ It makes all of us feel at home in this city of the Holy Shroud and Don Bosco during this special Jubilee Year.
At present there are 124 Salesian Bishops in the world. The largest numbers of bishops are living in Brasile (22: more bishops than novices!?), India (12), Argentina (7), Italia (5), Cile (4), Ecuador (4), Bolivia (3), Philippines (3), RD Congo (3), Paraguay (3) and Uruguay (3). Among the EAO bishops already nine of them are present at Valdocco – Cardinal Charles Bo from Myanmar reached Italy today and we are still waiting for the arrival of Bishop Joseph Prathan from Thailand. Among the 124 bishops some ninety of them reached Valdocco until now.
After the first meeting of missionary Bishops for the Centenary of Salesian Missions in 1975 there were other three encounters called the Rector Major – in 1988 at Colle Don Bosco for the Centenary of DB’s death, in 2001 for the Great Jubilee Year another encounter and finally in 2010 for the 150th anniversary of the Salesian Congregation our bishops gathered at Valdocco.