Jesus Forsaken: today's God
Signs of life
An example of the "dialogue of life"

Marilena Scaringella
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In the 90s, in Lo Stradone, a periodical of the city of Corato (in the province of Bari, Italy), the director of that magazine, Fr Emilio d’Angelo and the then Waldensian pastor Piero Santoro brought ahead a theological dialogue on Mary, supported by a deep, mutual and spiritual friendship. These were the first seeds of an ecumenical journey in our city.

In 1997, the spiritual ecumenism takes on a more concrete form, through a dialogue of life between the Waldensian Community and the St Francis of Assisi Catholic Parish, with the parish priest at the time Fr Nicola Bombini.

The first occasion was the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. An updating conference on the European Ecumenical Assembly of Graz was organized in the parish hall. The well-known theologian Paolo Ricca, professor of the Waldensian Faculty in Rome, held it. A fruit of this encounter was the invitation on behalf of the Pastor and his community to participate in their Sunday worship. There was a very warm welcome and this brought about our desire to see how we could reciprocate.

Then in the year 2000, the bishop invited all parishes of the archdiocese to form the
Ecumenism and Inter-religious Dialogue Commission. In our parish, it was composed of members coming from the different ecclesial movements. The orientation was not so much to point to the activities to carry out than to cultivate ecumencial relationships, in an attitude of continuing conversion of the heart.

However the ecumenical journey had the possibility to “come alive” thanks also to the World Day of Prayer (WDP) prepared by the women. Every year it is celebrated worldwide on the first Friday of the month in March. The Waldensian nuns, who had prayed on their own for years in Corato, in 2004 thought of spreading this beautiful experience to the women of our parish. This is how Antonietta, an elderly woman who when she was young was ordered not to pass in front of the Waldensian church, referred about it in the parish bulletin:

"The meeting took place on 5 March 2004 in the Waldensian Church, between a group of women of our parish community and a group of women of the Waldensian community, it did not remain confined, but it brought about its fruits, in fact the “dialogue” continues… I met Tonia of the Waldensian community who very affectionately invited me to her house. When she saw me there was an explosion of mutual joy, just as it happens between old and dear friends, even if this was only the second time we met. A fraternal dialogue was immediately established between us, we listened to one another and in the conversation, we shared our experience of faith. We told each other how we concretely live the Word of God and especially how we are liturgically living this strong moment of the Passion and Resurrection of Christ. She, then, wanted to share with me the joy of having felt welcomed and loved when she came to our parish community for the baptism of one of her relatives and the celebration of an inter-confessional wedding."

During one of his pastoral visits, the bishop, edified by our ecumenical relationship with the Waldensians, decided to go and visit the house of the pastor himself. A Waldensian nun, who attended that meeting, said that it was a very strong, unexpected moment and that it filled the hearts of those present with joy. A stimulus to go ahead with more vigour on the way of ecumenism.

Therefore, since 2004 the WDP is prepared and celebrated together, adapting the liturgy to the territory and we weave relationships of mutual love that resist over many difficulties and obstacles dispersed on the ecumenical journey. Every time we experience how meeting together to live this experience that unites us to Christians worldwide, is not a “dutiful encounter” but the “joy of meeting.”

The choir practices are a unifying moment. In 2008 we wrote: “... during the practices we lived a beautiful moment: we had to sing a Waldensian hymn, with the alleluia as the chorus. The song was musically similar to a catholic one; just the alleluia was different as it had a different key. In the indecision on which version to adopt and ready to lose one’s own, we thought of singing them both using the second voices: Waldensians and Catholics each with their own key. What came out was an alleluia that was quite difficult to carry out, but beautiful. We owe our thanks to God’s fantasy who is able to make us new, united and richer also in our singing.”

Another joy: the involvement of children and young people. That same year, for example, some Waldensian and Catholic children illustrated the cultural and geographical characteristics of Guyana, each wearing the colours of the nation’s flag and one wore the typical dress of the Guyana natives. Some scouts of the parish participated in making a kite for the liturgical animation.

In 2010 we thought of extending this moment to the whole city. It wasn’t easy “to actualize” these moments of ecumenical encounter that saw also people belonging to different parishes, associations and movements getting involved: for example, the Community of Saint Egidio, the Charismatic Renewal, the Catholic Action, Scout. Even the preparation was a prayer: asking God to be our director using our few talents. From that year onwards in the invitation posters to the Prayer we no longer wrote “the Waldensian and Catholic nuns” but “the Christian nuns invite you.” Even Orthodox nuns were invited to participate, even though they accepted with difficulty because of their work commitments generally as carers.

Then, every year we live the communion of goods to help the country who prepared the liturgy. One year for example, we contributed in the construction of wells in Cameroon. It’s really a circle that spreads out always more. This year the children participated and animated the WDP. The participants were welcomed with a white paper floor at the entrance. Then the children made some creative drawings to send to children in Cuba. They were so happy that they didn’t want to go home. The choir was enriched by the presence of some children of the immigration centre in the city who played the percussions. Our Romanian-Orthodox friend who took part in making the flowers and nearly seventy years old is returning to her country. She asked for a photo album so she could remember her active participation and the welcome she received.