The 2016 was a year full of events and enthusiasm for relations between Albania and the Holy See. It would be enough to remember the canonization of Mother Teresa and the beatification of the 38 martyrs, killed by the communist regime in Albania between the 1945 and the 1974. Events that have seen the moving participation of Albanian citizens around the world, regardless of religious belief.
In this climate of promotion and celebration of these ancient and strong bonds, the publication of I am an Albanian by father Ernesto Santucci sj by Francesco Bellofatto, published by Avagliano Editore.
Father Ernesto Santucci
It was born in Aquila in the 1930. At 18 years he enters the Society of Jesus and at 31 years he is ordained a priest. He began his apostolate in Naples, at the Pontano Institute, as a spiritual father and professor. He takes care of marginalized young people in the Spanish Quarter by opening a home to host homeless boys. The first therapeutic community opens in Campania at Somma Vesuviana, "Il Pioppo".
The face wound by the sun, by tiredness and by the thirst of a young migrant embarked with thousands of desperate people on Vlora ship, blocked in the port of Bari in the August of 1991, “thrown to the ground like a crucified Christ"Lead him to mature, in keeping with his life path, a demanding and difficult choice. This is the precise moment when Albania enters his heart, where he feels a strong call to go to the Land of Eagles, of which he knew nothing, except that there was "a humanity that needed a hand". A humanity different from the one he had sought and found in the Spanish Quarters and Somma Vesuviana, but with the same needs, starting from that of finding an identity.
The title of the book already amazes and amazes, a declaration of love by the Jesuit missionary for a country battered like post-communist Albania, coming from an isolation that lasted half a century, where there was no trace of the Catholic religion, the churches had been destroyed in an attempt to isolate and disperse the communities that had joined them. Title that also denotes the will of the Jesuit of "enter the Albanian animus"To make the customs and traditions of the Albanians their own, not to be a missionary who comes from outside and who from the beginning of his experience begins to catechize, the intention to do with the Albanians a path to rebuild their human and Christian personality , valuing all uses and local traditions.
Where does it start?
The main request of the people he meets is to be able to have churches. And Father Ernesto listens and supports that need, he builds the places of prayer around which the communities are identified and consolidated. So to Bilaj, Murqine, Gramez, Mallkuç ... in all ten. But not just churches. With them came the nuns, the catechism schools, cutting and sewing, the clinics, the education of the children, the reconstruction of the sense of family that the dictatorship had tried to cancel.
The book opens with an interview by Francesco Bellofatto to Father Santucci in which he retraces the most significant stages of missionary life from Montecalvario to Somma Vesuviana and finally Albania. Father Santucci himself identifies the thread that unites his missions in Naples and Albania, and finds him in the suburbs, because in Naples as in Albania it was necessary to go outside, look for people, know them, live with them. Details of the preparations for the trip and first impressions emerge as soon as they set foot on Albanian soil.
Father Santucci's first-hand testimony of the enthusiasm of the faithful in restoring the threads with their past, their identity and their values as the solidarity that transcended religious belief was moving. As a testimony to this, Father Santucci gave the example of the Tirana Muslim family that had the religious use their telephone and as a sign of friendship gives the Jesuit a copy of the Koran in Albanian with the dedication: "To Father Santucci, who came to bring the true faith".
Furthermore, useful information emerges regarding the recovery of the artistic heritage linked to the presence of Catholicism, to the relationship with the Albanian institutions, to inter religious dialogue and also to reflections on the role of the Church in bringing back to the local communities their own identity, about the transmission of the faith and the traditions linked to it during communism and considerations on the problems facing today's Albania.
The book, through the letters sent periodically to Italian friends who support him in his initiatives, offers a cross-section of post-communist Albania seen with the serene and impartial eyes of the Jesuit priest. A path that leads from the ruins left by a fierce totalitarian regime to a glimpse of an attainable horizon of hopes. A collection of the epistolary activity of Father Santucci, a diary of the intense activity of the priest builder of churches and through them also of the identities of individuals and communities, which after many years takes on the value of historical witness.
The book had a first presentation by the Free Writers Italian Syndicate in the Aula Magna of Palazzo Sora, Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, 217 Rome. The event was moderated by prof. Francesco Mercadante, with the interventions of Father Ernesto Santucci, Francesco Bellofatto, Ambassador Paolo Foresti, Krenar Gjokeja and also the Albanian business advisor to the Holy See, Visar Zhiti. Some of the numerous participants at the event were also able to express their opinions on the book and on the missionary activity of Father Santucci.
Currently the has just been completed translation of the book in Albanian and the presentation for the public is scheduled at the Italian Embassy in Tirana. In addition, other presentations in Italy are scheduled and are being organized, of which we will keep updated readers.
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