Sunday, January 1, 2012

Saint Luigi Orione’s Asian Contacts and Dreams (1): Introduction & Palestine

           Asia is the largest and most populous continent in the world; it was the cradle of ancient cultures and great religions, and an enormous variety of colors, sounds, languages and cultural expressions are to be found there.
            But it is also an unknown world to many western eyes, which are usually familiar with only a few details (geography, traditions or customs) about this great continent.

            St. Luigi Orione’s great missionary spirit motivated his activity both in his homeland, Italy, and abroad. He went to South America twice and sent his sons to the United States, the United Kingdom, Albania, Spain and Poland. He also dreamed of opening houses in Africa and sent his Congregation to Palestine, too.
            The house in Rafat (1921) constituted the Congregation’s first presence in Asia and his earliest contact with this great continent.
            But was this his only contact with Asia? Did he know or hear anything more about Asia? Did he dream or think about Asia?
            Let us see what Don Orione’s thoughts and dreams about Asia were.

In January 1921, Don Orione was invited by Msgr. Luigi Barlassina[2], the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, to take over a large agricultural school for orphans near Rafat, a small Arab village, because Jews and Protestants were arriving in that area, but there was no Catholic presence.
The Congregation was to organize and run a 25 kilometer farm, the property of the “Associazione Missionari Italiani” (Association of Italian Missionaries), which would have supported the seminary and the Patriarchal missions.  
The first religious he sent were Fr. Adaglio, Brother Benedetto Gismondi (a student) and Brother Giuseppe Torti (a hermit), who got there in September 1921. When they arrived, the place was not yet ready and they met with a lot of difficulties, including a lack of freedom concerning the management[3], very few pastoral activities[4], the Patriarch’s contempt[5], misunderstandings, community problems, cultural and language difficulties, etc.
These difficulties, which hindered and complicated the development of the Congregation considerably, were the reason why they left Rafat in 1927.

            The second Orionine presence in Holy Land was in Capernaum, near the Mount of the Beatitudes, in 1925. Don Orione accepted another proposal from the “Associazione Missionari Italiani” to take charge of a difficult complex, consisting of a house for pilgrims, an agricultural school and a church. 
Something similar to the Rafat difficulties occurred there too, so the Orionine community left Capernaum in 1931.
            When St. Luigi Orione received the invitation, he was happy to open a house in the holy places where Jesus had lived, preached and given his life for our salvation. He also wanted the Congregation’s houses to be signs of Christian charity in a non-Catholic country.
Accordingly, he encouraged his sons to learn the language[6], to become saintly, and to make sacrifices because they had the honor of being in the Holy Land, and [7]he promised to visit them soon[8].
However, problems and requests from other places caused him to make the sad decision to leave Palestine[9] definitively.
There were also other proposals to open more houses in that area. The Patriarch talked to St. Luigi Orione about a mission in Transjordan (today’s Jordan)[10], but some days after this proposal, the Founder met the procurator of the patriarchate, Mgsr. Biasotti, who explained the actual circumstances and difficulties he would find himself faced with in that place, and dissuaded him from accepting it, on account of those conditions as well as for other reasons.[11]

There was also another proposal to open a house in Lod (Lidda), which the Patriarch[12]offered, but then he changed his mind[13] some months later.
Don Orione also expressed his desire to have a house in Lebanon[14].

[1] There is a lot of argument about the name “Palestine”, and other toponyms in the Holy Land, because of its geopolitical meaning. It is used by the Arab people and authorities, and completely avoided by the Israeli Government and people. I will use the name Palestine, because it was the name used by St. Luigi Orione and given by the British Mandate (1917 – 1948).
[2] Msgr. Luigi Barlassina (Turin 1872 – Palestine 1947) was Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem from 1920 to 1947. St. Luigi Orione met him in 1912, while he was the parish priest of St. John Lateran (Rome), whose assistant priests had been two members of the Congregation: Fr. Adaglio and Fr. Martinotti
[3] Letter to Fr. Adaglio. Rome (San Filippo) February 20th, 1923.
[4] Letter to Fr. Adaglio. Tortona, March 19th, 1923.
[5] Letter to Fr. Adaglio. Rome, February 20th, 1923.
[6] Letter to Fr. Gemelli. Tortona, October 29th, 1925.
[7] Letter to Fr. Adaglio. Tortona, February 7th, 1924.
[8] I. E. From a letter to Fr. Gemelli. Tortona, October, 20th, 1925.
[9] Letter to Fr. Adaglio, Tortona July 8th, 1929.
[10] The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan was Transjordan, under British supervision until after World War II.
[11] Letter to Fr. Adaglio. Tortona, December 22nd, 1922.
[12] Letter to Fr. Adaglio. Rome, November 7th, 1924.
[13] Letter to Fr. Adaglio. Rome, February 18th, 1925.
[14] Letter to Fr. Adaglio. Tortona, August 6th, 1927.

No comments:

Post a Comment