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Rome Reports

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Priests recall their experiences at a Focolare gathering

They talked about these moments at a gathering ?Priests today? organized by the Focolare Movement, the Movement of Schönstatt and the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Four thousand priests from 70 countries participated.It was celebrated at the Vatican, a few hours before the closing of the Year for Priests. Through stories and musical performances they presented the priest as a man of God, a brother and a prophet.

One of the stories was from three priests from Burundi who lived at the seminary when civil war broke out between Hutus and Tutsis. With the help of their trainers they learned to look at themselves without taking into account their differences.

Pasteur Manirambona

BurundiThey entered at five in the morning one day in 1997. They came in yelling and firing shots.

They said Hutus on one side, Tutsis on the other side. But we didn?t respond, we stayed together.”

That night 40 seminaries died, among them was Pasteur?s brother. Despite living through the horror, they learned that the only way to be priests was to practice forgiveness. Years later they met the guilty and forgave them.

Priests Brendan Purcell and Helmut Kappes have also had to overcome difficult times. Brendan has lived close to sexual abuse committed by other priests in Ireland and Helmut suffered from alcoholism.

Brendan Purcell


“In a radio program I spoke about my embarrassment, of my displeasure assuming the guilt of others. One of the victims participated in the same program. I expected a strong attack against me. After a long pause, he told me: I like to hear a priest talk like that.”

Helmut KappesGermany

“Various conversations made me understand the importance of listening to what is in the back of my soul. Above all I learned how to trust myself. Trust in this God who tells me: I put my law in your heart: love your neighbor as

you love yourself.”

Mario Spaki also spoke on overcoming difficulty. As National Secretariat of the Commission for Priests in Brazil, he was able to collect the necessary money to finish a cathedral that had been under construction for 30 years. He did this in 10 months.

Mario Spaki


“More than 90 percent of Brazil?s communities don?t have mass on Sundays. They have a celebration of the Word and laity do it. But they don?t take the role of priests because there are no priests.”

An intense encounter that united cultures and experiences of priests from all over the world and served to prepare the meeting with the pope.