MILAN – On Saturday, February 12, in partnership with the Festival della Missione, Terra Santa and Caritas Ambrosiana, His Beatitude Mgr Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, participated in a conference on the theme of reconciliation, organized by the Archdiocese of Milan.
Held before a reduced audience due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but with many listeners connected via the Internet, this conference included, in addition to Patriarch Pizzaballa, Archbishop Mario Delpini of Milan, Adolfo Ceretti (professor of criminology at the University of Milan-Bicocca), Bishop Christian Carlassare (Bishop of Rumbek, Sudan), Gemma Capra (widow of Police Commissioner Luigi Calabresi) and Davide Bernocci (Catholic Relief Services). It was broadcast on the YouTube channel of Caritas Ambrosiana and on the diocesan website, and can be viewed again (in Italian) here.
After Bishop Delpini’s opening speech, in which he recalled the mission of Christians – to be “prophets” announcing the word of God – each of the participants was able to testify to their own experience of forgiveness and reconciliation. From Sudan to Iraq, passing through the Holy Land, Colombia and Italy, the different interventions, sometimes moving but always full of hope, drew a poignant portrait of what reconciliation is for a Christian.
“It is only through faith that one can forgive freely, without expecting anything in return,” said Mgr Carlassare, who was shot in Sudan a few months after his appointment as bishop of Rumbek. “And we grant this forgiveness not only because the other deserves it, but because it also gives us an inner freedom that allows us to move forward.”
During his speech, Archbishop Pizzaballa said that “in the Holy Land, we are in a situation of exhausting conflict that makes it difficult to understand the other, because everyone sees only his own pain. But there are many people who are not afraid of dialogue, even if it is less and less talked about. […] Forgiveness, in a public and open context, requires a longer time and is more complex, but remains necessary: it cannot be imposed or demanded, even by religions, but it is always a gift offered and received, an option of the heart with a shared vision. In this, religions play a fundamental role.”
His words were followed by the testimony of Mrs. Capra, whose husband was murdered by an Italian extreme left-wing organization, and who spoke about her feelings towards the murderers and the prayer she wished to dedicate to them. “Forgiveness cannot be given by intelligence or by words, but only by love.”
Then came the interventions of Mr. Ceretti and Mr. Bernocci, respectively focused on the situation in Colombia and Iraq – two countries that have known and still know many conflicts and tensions, but which are gradually moving towards peace and reconciliation. Finally, the conference concluded with a question and answer session, during which the audience was able to address the participants directly.