“The Mediterranean” seen with our own eyes

On the morning of February 20th we had the grace to participate in the Eucharist with the 60 bishops of the Mediterranean countries who were gathered in Bari for the congress organized by the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI) on "The Mediterranean, peaceful border".

The crypt of the Basilica of St. Nicholas welcomed and received us.  The celebration was sober and solemn, more in content than in form.

Insider participation was very low.  In addition to the bishops present and a good choir, there were few diocesan priests, very few faithful, a few journalists who had been sent and barely a dozen men and women religious.

At the end of his short homily, Cardinal Bassetti (President of the CEI) expressed his desire that this meeting, which was just beginning, be based on charity.  He quoted a homily by St. Augustine: "If charity serves us as a boat, we will not sink."  We watched these men as they lined up for communion.  We looked at their shoulders and absorbed faces trying to guess their origins: the big eyes of the Egyptians, the tanned skin of those from the Middle East....

And the crosses hung around their necks simply reminded us of long-ago and the great and splendid pomp and circumstance of certain circles in an era that is undoubtedly over.  There was no prince among them: their shoulders were stooped; surprisingly, they hid rather young faces. We had the impression of being in front of shepherds who were spending themselves, to the point of exhaustion, for the well-being of their faithful and for the joy of their Lord.  It almost seemed as if the dream of a certain agility and simplicity in the church was beginning to come true.

We felt that this meeting was not pretending to provide solutions.  We were surrounded by men who were listening, eager to dialogue, and able to kneel in front of pain.  Some of them carry the signs that have marked the history of their own church and their own people.  They did not seem to dwell on current events, but rather were thirsty for a personal experience told in all its fragility.  Stripped of the temptation of power, they seem to struggle to continue to persevere in proclaiming the Kingdom.  To be able to trust one another is viaticum, a necessary gift of grace.

The little sisters of Bari