Fr. Ángel Fernández Ártime, General Superior of the Salesian Society of Don Bosco recently finished his four-day visit to the smallest province of the order – Hungary. During his visit, he met with his confreres, lay co-workers, the Salesian Youth Movement, teachers and some political leaders of the country.
The General Superior (or Major Rector as they call the successors of Salesian founder Don Bosco) has the obligation, during his six year term, to visit all the congregational provinces that are located in 136 countries around the world.
Fr. Ángel is now in his 5th year, and this was his second time in Hungary.
During this visit, he met all the Salesian priests and religious and delivered conferences to young people and teachers. He also met the lay co-workers of the Salesian Society. Fr Ángel was open-hearted, welcoming and always available to meet his people. He never showed signs of tiredness or fatigue – and seemed to genuinely practice the charism of joy, person-centeredness and kindness proposed by their founder Saint John Bosco.
In his discourses, he emphasised the importance of youth work, stating that
“young people never are the problem, but on the contrary, they are the future for our societies.”
He said that the principal task of the Salesians is to help the youth discover the meaning of their lives. He spoke about the Salesian method of education which is centered on the human person and his or her personal needs. A Salesian formator can never be obstinate or distant because young people need to “feel that they are loved and listened to.”
At the end of his visit, he met Miklós Soltész, Minister of State for Churches, Minorities and Civil Affairs and Tristan Azbej, head of the State Secretariat for the Aid of Persecuted Christians.
During the meeting, they explored possibilities for mutual collaboration in the fields of youth work and the formation of religious brothers and sisters.
The main focus of their discussions was however on how to help our persecuted Christian brethren in those countries where they live in constant danger or under oppression.
Mr Azbej and Mr Soltész presented some of the Hungarian government’s programmes aimed at helping persecuted Christian communities in countries such as Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Nigeria. In these places, the Hungarian government has rebuilt hundreds of ruined houses, churches and schools and in so doing facilitated the return to their homeland of thousands of refugees that were victims of various conflicts inflicted upon them by Islamic terrorists.
The Hungarian government was the first in the world to establish such high-level governmental support for the aid of persecuted Christians
Fr. Ángel explained that Salesians are present in many places where Christians are persecuted. Besides youth work they are called to serve those who suffer the most and
helping people persecuted for their faith is a priority.
They have houses and schools in Pakistan, Syria and different countries in Africa. “Our houses in Aleppo were all hit by bombs,” said Fr. Ángel, who went on to say: “During the Syrian war, we gave sanctuary to more than a thousand young refugees. We are also present in Uganda, at the Palabek refugee camp, where our priority is to establish a day-care centre for small children.”
Fr. Ángel and the representatives of the Hungarian government decided to set up a ‘communications hotline’ so that together they could aid refugees and persecuted religious minorities in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. They expressed their dedication to supporting each other’s aid efforts with both human and financial resources.
Photo Credit: Erzsébet Lengyel
Video: Agenzia Info Salesiana