'Nelson Mandela's Death Calls Us To the Mission'

Neocatechumenal Communities of South Africa Remember Historic Leader’s Efforts for Reconciliation

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“Man’s greatness is measured on the basis of one who seeks and the insistence with which he continues to seek,” said the philosopher Martin Heidegger.

Nelson Mandela can truly be described as “great,” given that more than half of his life was a continual search of the highest ideals, which he never ceased to pursue, even when he was insulted, imprisoned and put on trial.

Because of this, his death, which occurred on December 5 at 95, has aroused great emotion throughout the world, especially in his native South Africa, for which he always fought to restore its dignity.

The Catholic Church in South Africa  immediately expressed sympathy for the decease of the historic leader, described as “a guide for the country on the path of reconciliation and peace.” Also mourning his memory and testimony were the members of the local Neo-Catechumenal Way communities, who received the news of his death while gathered in a spiritual retreat in Cape Town.

The news, received in a context of prayer and preaching, touched the hearts of the 200 people present there, making each one face the profound need that the path of reconciliation undertaken by Mandela at the political and social level, be able to find in the Catholic Church its most radical and truest realization.

Convinced of this is Dino Furgione, itinerant responsible of the Neo-Catechumenal Way in South Africa who, giving voice to the sentiments of the assembly, told ZENIT: “Mandela was a man truly inspired by God.” “The divine inspiration was that of avoiding at all costs the violent transition from Apartheid to democracy, indicating an unheard of path according to human logic, which was that of Truth and Reconciliation. His inspiration is a light and hope for the whole of Africa,” he explained.

According to Furgione, the fact that the Community learned about the leader’s death during a day of prayer was not by chance. “The Lord wishes to seal in us this call he is making to our Communities, to give true signs of love and unity, so that the world can see realized in our concrete lives the Good News of the kerygma that death is conquered, that it is possible to love the other in the divine dimension of the Cross.”

The Neo-Catechumenal Way has been present in South Africa for 28 years, and its roots were sunk in the harshest years of Apartheid. “The first Communities suffered very much from this; the whites could not celebrate with the blacks; the State itself impeded the realization of signs of unity, to the point of rendering the life of the brothers almost impossible,” recalled Furgione.

Yet today those who believed in the Good News and undertook this path of conversion are still faithful to this path, witnessing God’s fidelity to his promises. “For us, it is a sign to see that even in one of the most wounded places of the tragedy of Apartheid, Ga-Rankuwa (a township located north of the capital, Pretoria), where the Communities seemed to be collapsing in the face of the obstacles placed by the government of Apartheid, there are still brothers present, united, ready to give this sign of hope for South Africa.”

On the historic day of the death of Nelson Mandela, the Community’s prayer is that the path of reconciliation undertaken by South Africa can continue. “One day was enough to have Israel come out of Egypt, but 40 years in the desert were necessary to have Egypt come out of the hearts of the Israelites!”, observed Furgione, recalling the biblical image. “This means that we still have before us a long process of reconciliation, and only the proclamation of the Gospel can indicate the direction on which to go,” he added.

The presence of the Way on the day of Mandela’s death calls all, therefore, to fulfill this mission more forcefully. “Today that South Africa must navigate towards the future in post-Mandela, this hope of unity and reconciliation is what our Communities are called to give,“ concluded the itinerant responsible.

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Salvatore Cernuzio

Crotone, Italy Bachelor's degree in Communication Sciences, Information and Marketing (2008) and Master's degree in Publishing and Journalism (2010) from LUMSA University of Rome. Vatican Radio. Rome Seven. "Ecclesia in Urbe. Social Communications Office of the Vicariate of Rome. Second place in the Youth category of the second edition of the Giuseppe De Carli Prize for religious information.

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