When Dominic meets Don Camillo

General Chapter Chronicle 3 - Day n°4 - 07/18

“The General Chapter is an exercise in being a community. It is healthy training for both your Order and the whole city of Bologna”. This was the main message delivered by Matteo Zuppi, Archbishop of Bologna, to the Capitular Fathers.

               Born in 1955, ordained priest in 1981 and named auxiliary bishop of Rome in 2002, Matteo Zuppi is a real personality. As a chaplain of the Community of Sant'Egidio, a Catholic lay association dedicated to inter-religious dialogue and ecumenism, he helped the peace negotiations in Mozambique and thus was awarded with the honorary citizenship of this African country. In 2015 he was appointed bishop of Bologna and instantly began by visiting every inch of his diocese. A year after his appointment, there is no parish, no association, no prayer group, no priory or convent which has not seen him visit a couple of times at least. He did not just call for a rise in solidarity and friendship towards the poor and the refugees, but he is ensuring that the Church of Bologna can provide even more housing for the homeless than she does now. 

Bishop Matteo addressed the faithful and the friars first at Vespers and then during a private meeting with the Capitular Fathers. He sketched out his vision for the future to the Preachers. Like the Hebrews led by Moses – he said – we are about to cross the Red Sea. We should not wait for the waters to be divided to begin our journey towards the Promised Land. We should not expect – he stressed – that God will solve each and every one of our problems. Let us begin our peregrination right now without being afraid of wetting our feet. Only at this point will things work and we will be able to see wonders.

In his diocese there are 400 parishes for 360 priests and many of them are over 70 years old. This is the dire situation of the local Church, but he did not complain about it. The solution – he suggested – cannot be simply aggregating parishes according to the number of priests. Being a parish priest has become a juggling act: if too many balls are juggled, inevitably some will fall! On the contrary, from a spiritual point of view sometimes small parishes are really effective because they are like families: the parishioners know their priest well. Such parishes are living a real life of Christian community, abounding in love and mutual care, whereas vast territorial units are like supermarkets where people are strangers to one another.

The way forward is the greater involvement of the laity in the life of the Church. Moreover, the bishop intends to foster the commitment of his diocese to develop “cult and culture” along the lines already set by his great predecessors. In this way, the Dominican presence in Bologna is crucial not only for the concrete help the friars are giving to secular priests in celebrating the sacraments, but also for their cultural engagement.

Finally, he recalled that Pope Francis asked the intercession of three people: St. Francis, St. Philip Neri and Don Camillo, a popular comedy character from the 50's. Don Camillo is an example of a priest capable of knowing and being with all the people and of praying to God at the same time. Bishop Matteo invited the Friars Preachers to do like Don Camillo: be with the people and pray to God.

At this point, every Dominican in the room thought: “That is exactly my vocation!” In the Dominican tradition we are used to expressing this with a single motto: “To contemplate and to hand on to others the fruit of contemplation”. Indeed, both Dominic and Don Camillo talked to the people, especially to those who opposed the faith, and they were talking confidentially to God as well – one of them quite literally.

To find out who, watch the video-clip.


The Chronicler