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Bishop saw treasure in the hard ground of migrants

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Soon-to-be-canonised Bishop John Baptist Scalabrini is considered a pioneer and father of the Church’s response to refugees and migrants. Amid massive patterns of migration from his native Italy, he saw the isolation and poverty of migrants and that the Church needed to accompany them. His response was to form congregations specialising in work with migrants and refugees as well as pastoral plans tailored to their reality.

Bishop John Baptist Scaalabrini to be canonised

A still-little-known Italian bishop who pioneered the Church’s outreach to migrants and refugees will be canonised on 9 October.

Bishop John Baptist Scalabrini of Piacenza (1839-1905) will be declared a saint by Pope Francis.

Blessed Scalabrini was deeply moved by the human drama of so many Italians forced to leave their native land in the 19th Century – usually for the US and South America but also further afield to destinations such as Australia – largely due to poverty.

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He founded the Congregation of the Missionaries of St Charles Borromeo and the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of St Charles Borromeo, both often referred to as Scalabrinians, and inspired the Scalabrini Secular Missionaries.

Born in Fino Mornasco in the province of Como in 1839, Scalabrini is considered a modern gift to the Church and humanity. He gathered information, raised awareness in Italian society and sent his missionaries and missionary sisters around the world to help and support migrants in ports, on ships and upon arrival in their new countries.

He is now considered a father to all migrants and refugees. More than a century after his death, his legacy still bears fruit. Scalabrinians are present in 39 countries (including Australia), with thousands of Scalabrinian religious and laity serving in parishes, houses for migrants, schools, orphanages, hospitals, ecclesial bodies in bishops’ conferences and dioceses, study centres, ports and borders around the world.

“Scalabrini was a bishop who dedicated himself completely to ministry in his diocese, but he also knew how to look beyond, to those who were forced to leave their homeland,” said Father Leonir Chiarello CS, Superior General of the Missionaries of St Charles.

He gave a concrete response to the phenomenon of migration, involving the Church, government, society and calling everyone to an awareness.” – Fr Leonir Chiarello CS

“He gave a concrete response to the phenomenon of migration, involving the Church, government, society and calling everyone to an awareness.

“He fought what the Holy Father today calls ‘the culture of indifference and discard.’ By proclaiming him a saint, Pope Francis invites us to have his gaze of welcome and love toward all.

Sister Neusa de Fatima Mariano, Superior General of the Missionary Sisters of St Charles Borromeo, described the new saint as “a bishop who made himself ‘neighbour to neighbour,’ a man of action, a spiritual man, passionate, dynamic, strong in an incarnated spirituality: he continually contemplates the Son of God who became man to reveal the Father’s love and to return renewed humanity to Him.”

“The canonisation of our founder motivates us to embark on a path of renewal of our Scalabrinian consecrated life, in the call to the centrality of Jesus Christ and in the renewed commitment to mission with and for migrants and refugees,” she said.

Regina Widmann, general director of the Scalabrinian Secular Missionaries, said news of the canonisation “made us very happy for the whole Church and for all migrants.

“His prophetic vision will become better known – that is, the conviction that precisely in the hard ground of emigration a treasure is hidden: the possibility that different and far away peoples may find themselves close and recognise themselves as part of the one human family.”

12-day Scalabrini Canonisation Pilgrimage

A 12-day pilgrimage to Rome and then on to Como where Blessed Scalabrini became a priest, to Piacenza where he was Bishop, and on to Padua and Venice is being organised. Those interested or wishing to participate can contact Fr Savino Bernardi, CS on 0434 089 707 or via email: [email protected]

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