Around 130 Religious Advisers from about fifteen UIGSE-FSE associations gathered in Rome from 29th to 31st of January for an international congress on the topic “Young people, the Faith and Vocational Discernment”. The chosen topic coincided intentionally with the theme of the next Bishops’ synod that will take place in Rome in October 2018.
We came from all across Europe and even America to meet in the hotel Villa Aurelia located in the wing of a huge convent on one of the Roman hills called Janiculum, with view on the majestic dome of Saint Peter’s basilica standing out behind a panorama of pine trees. The modern installations of the hotel with a high-tech equipped conference room were linked by a long corridor to the convent’s chapel, rather being a small church able to receive 150 persons.
A young British Dominican priest with Asian roots, Father Lawrence Lew, O.P., led the participants through the congress program. Father Lew is known in scout circles for having strongly supported the development of the red branch in Scotland and England.
We had the chance to listen to high-level speakers. The first conference was given by Mgr. José Guillermo Gutiérrez Fernández, representative of His Eminence Kevin Cardinal Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life. The International Union of Guides and Scouts of Europe as international association of faithful ruled by the Canon law refers to this Dicastery. As Cardinal Farrell could not be present personally, a Mexican priest of his Dicastery explained us the place of the UIGSE-FSE as a Catholic educational movement recognized by the Holy See in the Church.
After the break, Father Serge-Thomas Bonino O.P. spoke to us on the topic of “Scouting and vocation to holiness”. He has a great reputation not only in the scout world – for having been National Religious Adviser in France –, but also in the world of theologians, as he is a member of the distinguished International Theological Commission. Following to this conference, some smaller presentations on different aspects of “scouting and vocation” were given by the Fathers Paolo La Terra (Italy), Pierre François (Belgium) and Bogusław Migut (Poland, Federal Religious Adviser).
Mgr. Gutiérrez Fernández presided the celebration of the Vespers and the Eucharist and gave a beautiful homily calling to a personal encounter with Christ. (…) The common liturgical language was Latin, while the readings were given in English, Italian and French language. (…) A part of the chants was in Gregorian; the prayerful atmosphere was truly palpable.
Tuesday started with the common prayer of the Lauds and the liturgy of the Eucharist, presided by His Excellence Andrea Migliavacca, bishop of San Miniato, a diocese between Pisa and Florence. He has been scout Religious adviser in the Association of Catholic Guides and Scouts of Italy, a distinct association from ours. In his conference, he told us that even though he had not the joy of having vocations to priesthood among his scouts, he is convinced that scouting is an important and fruitful way for the maturation of vocations to priesthood and consecrated life.
Afterwards, another bishop addressed to us, His Ecellence Mgr. Cyril Vasil S.J. archbishop at the Roman Curia, of Slovak nationality and Greek Catholic rite. Those who were at the Eurojam 2014 will remember him, because he was the main celebrant of the opening mass. He was Federal Religious Adviser during years and accompanied number of clans in Italy. Is deep knowledge of the scout method and in particular of the red branch made his conference on “the educational tandem of scout leader and Religious adviser” exciting.
The afternoon was dedicated to two shorter presentations on the educational approach to liturgy in our movement. Two lay people gave the presentations, Domenico Pezzato, professor in Italy and Martin Hafner, Federal Commissioner.
During the evening, the participants, divided in small groups, visited Roman parishes in which Scouts of Europe are based. We were impressed by the centuries-old history that you can find behind every stone in the places we visited. For instance, some of us had the chance to visit the place where St. Philipp Neri lived during long years. The Italian FSE guides and scouts who welcomed us guided us with much expertise and showed that they know very well their own cultural origins.
On Wednesday, we left the hotel early in the morning in order to celebrate the Holy mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica at the altar in the apsis, under Bernini’s Chair of Saint Peter and the window of the Holy Spirit. Again, the beauty of the Roman rite worthily celebrated in Latin was an efficient way to elevate ourselves to the Lord. The young clergy showed that he is able to celebrate with dignity and devotion the roman liturgy of the Eucharist. Mgr. Cyril Vasil gave the homily, clothed with the liturgical garment of the Greek Catholic rite.
Then we went to the audience with Pope Francis in Saint-Peter’s square. Some rays of sunlight allowed us to resist to the wintry cold during the Holy Father’s catechesis on the place of the liturgy of the Word in the celebration of the Eucharist. The audience finished with a family photo of our congress participants together with the Holy Father – a great honour for our scout movement.
After a last festive meal, we took our leave of one another, sad and happy at once, as it is always the case when you go back home after an event of quality shared together.
Abbé Pierre François (National Religious Adviser Belgium)