On-going Formation

Following this link, you will find on a daily basis new material to deepen your reflection on the main points of the Chapter

Petit Echo

For your convenience, the main articles written by our confreres in current the Petit Echo are available in a format easy to read, even on a smartphone or a tablet

150th Anniversary

In 2018, we will celebrate 150 years of existence of our Society. While we are waiting for some more material from the Preparation Committee, do enjoy the few videos we offer you

Homilies

Here, you will find some links to interesting websites for your personal meditation or the preparation of your homilies

Fr. Francis Bomansaan Bishop of Wa, Ghana

Official communication

As officially announced at noon today, the Holy Father
has appointed our confrere Father
Francis BOMANSAAN Bishop of the Diocese of Wa, Ghana.
On behalf of the Superior General, currently meeting in Assisi, the General
Council and all the confreres, our sincere congratulations to Francis and the
assurance of our prayers and of our fraternal support
in his new service of the Church.

Rome, 22 May 2024

P. André-Léon SIMONART,
General Secretary.

Jealousy, a major obstacle on the road to peace

The first murder in human history was caused by jealousy. Cain killed his brother. The word “sin” appears here for the first time in the Bible! This is significant! “Original sin” is not the sin of Adam and Eve. The first sin was between human beings. The first sin was to allow violence born of jealousy and a refusal to accept differences to thrive.

The villain in a comic book I read as a child kept grumbling: “I want to be a vizier instead of a vizier!” And imagining a whole series of methods to achieve it. On a less dramatic note, a confrere said: “I had to wait 27 years before being appointed parish priest, whereas he…” Yes, so what? Yes, but so what? Why is he called to study, and I’m not? All too often, our prolific imagination leads us down the wrong path. We don’t always have the correct elements to judge decisions by those in charge or God! 

Cain and Abel are two brothers, though very different. When the time came to offer God the first fruits of their labours, the first of their produce, a tragedy occurred: God accepted Abel’s offering but rejected that of Cain. God did not reject Cain, only the offering he made. Cain experienced inequality and reacted strongly: his jealousy gave rise to anger.

God tells Cain to pull himself together. But Cain is jealous of Abel without trying to understand; he does not ask God to explain his choice but sees that his brother has received something he does not have. And this is when jealousy is born: desiring what the other has – possessions, recognition, success, talents – feeling sorry for them, and harbouring envy and even hatred towards them, a hatred that can lead to violence. According to the author of Genesis, this violence stems from the fact that man cannot tolerate difference, which he sees as inequality and injustice, for which God himself is responsible.

In one of his Teachings in 2017, the Pope emphasised that the enmities between us all begin with something tiny, but then they grow, and we see life only from this perspective. So much so that our lives revolve around it, destroying the bond of brotherhood. What happened to Cain can happen to all of us,” he says. That’s why the process must be stopped immediately. “Many rifts begin this way even in our presbyteries,” he continues, “in our episcopal conferences”. And in our Society?

The source of jealousy

The jealous person experiences all forms of sharing as unfair and, above all, as immensely frustrating. They desire nothing but everything, especially what has been given to others. They have no particular desire to receive but to possess. He does not believe in what he has received because the other is always an obstacle to his joy.

They refuse to accept the life given to them. They want what is given to the other. Since they are unaware of this, they see themselves as “rejected”. He is not aware that he is refusing life. He justifies his refusal by rejecting the other person and himself. It’s an “all or nothing” question for the jealous person. If the other person is alive, then I am excluded from life. It’s either him or me.

A culture of peace requires a good understanding of Jealousy

Our human relationships are marked by jealousy. We are all affected by this feeling, though at different levels. And the first thing to do if we want to deal with it more effectively is to be aware of it. We can do nothing about the jealousy born in our hearts, this “mimetic desire” (the desire to be like the other person, in a way denying our differences), which unfortunately comes to us despite us. However, we can always “lift our heads” like God told Cain to do; in other words, we can take a step back from what we possess and what others possess, whether in terms of possessions, qualities, talents, or history.

Allow me to share a personal experience with you. During a session on jealousy at Le Chatelard, I recognised a deadly jealousy in me that made me reconsider certain attitudes from my past. I understood the origin of certain sadness, influenced by a strong imagination. Little by little, I recognised the point where the evil tended to get the better of me: “Careful, Georges, you’re stepping out of reality. You’re imagining things, and you’re getting jealous! To break away from this, I voluntarily tried to favour the person I was jealous of: “Vade retro, Satanas!

The world forces us to compare and, very often, trapped by a destructive imagination, to move away from reality. I need to return to the reality of the humanity of the other person I was jealous of. He’s a man with gifts but also with weaknesses. I am also called upon to discover my riches and what makes me come alive so that the other person does not stop me from living.

Many conflicts between states, brothers or confreres arise from an unmanaged jealousy fuelled by our destructive imagination. To escape this impasse, we must leave behind the imaginary relationship of “him or me” and integrate “him and me”. The way out of jealousy is alterity. It’s “him and me”. You have the right to be happy. I have the right to be happy in the positive appreciation of our differences.

By: Georges Jacques, M.Afr.

To nurture dreams of a better tomorrow

While peace may not be of particular worry to some people, given that the realities of their living environment do not seem to frustrate their desire for well-being, it must be stressed that it is a treasure that is hard to come by for many men and women, such as those in South Sudan, who have suffered disastrous fratricidal conflicts for decades. It is impossible to live in such an environment without asking the existential question of education for a culture of peace.

This overview of South Sudanese society shows that education and a culture of peace are imperative for human society in general, particularly for South Sudan, given that it is impossible to lead a fulfilling life without peace. Indeed, peace education is an urgent appeal to family and parental responsibility. In this case, searching for a healthy and fulfilling environment is not an option but a priority. To this end, all human values will be imprinted on the consciousness of children, who are said to be adults in miniature, within the family unit and from an early age, with a great sense of responsibility. So, children will grow up with the values inculcated in them: human, intellectual, professional, and spiritual. All the components of society must be considered in this essential undertaking of peace education.

It must also be understood that the well-being of any human society is founded and perpetuated by the good conduct of its daughters and sons, who depend on the education they have received. This education for peace must be cultivated to last in space and time. This also presupposes the creation and promotion of solid and humanising institutions. This need is even more urgent in countries disarticulated by armed conflict, such as South Sudan.

South Sudan

Although South Sudan is a young independent state, it has suffered profound social upheaval undermining its social and national unity since its birth. Having been marginalised for a long time in education, the key to growth and development, by the Sudanese authorities before its independence, it is sad to note that formal education is still a luxury for these people. This lack of formal education in a country traumatised by war is, in our opinion, a breeding ground for violence. It fosters ethnic narcissism and a spirit of revenge. Unfortunately, far from working to eradicate violence in all its forms, we are instead witnessing, helplessly, the amplification of conflicts.

As far as we are concerned, the Diocese of Malakal, in the administrative region of Jonglei, where our parish is located, is the epicentre of violence. Violence in churches related to succession, livestock theft, abduction and abuse of children, ethnic clashes, conflicts related to land appropriation, forced marriages, abuse of women, vulnerable people and foreigners. The lack of education seems to be one of the main reasons for this disturbing situation. To this end, our pastoral work has adopted education for a culture of peace as a priority objective.

We are therefore convinced that one of the best ways of breaking the chains of violence, promoting peace and working towards reconciliation is to establish a school for holistic education. However, we are doing things differently until we have the necessary resources to build the school. The focus of our pastoral approach is peace. For example, we make the most of the homily to speak to desperate hearts, encouraging fraternity and a positive change in the way we look at others, which cannot be an option but a priority if we want to make good use of the opportunities to calm hearts and heal the environment in which we live.

Collaborating with the diocese and some partners, we have also organised healing sessions for the traumas and other scourges undermining South Sudanese society. Our parishioners and neighbours also took part in them. We also organised sessions for young people. And finally, we organised a children’s day, which was a success despite the meagre resources available. Regarding the children in particular, we resolved to have a weekly programme with them, and between early December and now, we have noticed an increase in attendance. We wanted the children’s programme to be inclusive, aiming to promote peace. To this end, their parents have expressed their gratitude to us for our contribution to their children’s education, while at the same time asking us to build a school which, for them and us too, would be the ideal setting for realising such a dream.

There is a strong link between peace and sustainable development. Indeed, one cannot be a reality without the other. They are even the stumbling blocks to coexistence. From this point of view, the best attitude to adopt and inculcate is respect for human life and its promotion because, as we say, man is an end and not a means. It is in this context that we approach our pastoral activities. In fact, we have organised sessions to promote peace and justice and to equip families to be the basic cells of peace. As part of our efforts to promote peace, we organise traditional songs and dances for children and sports for young people. We want to have a school in the future where knowledge, manners and skills are transmitted to the young. We also express the need for a vocational training centre for young people to bring about a change of perspective. While idleness and the lack of opportunities to nurture dreams of a better tomorrow lead them to violence, we hope that vocational training could, on the contrary, turn them into actors for peace.

We are convinced that education remains a reliable means of paving the way for sustainable development and promoting peace and human life, as in Southern Sudan. On the strength of this conviction, we take this opportunity to ask anyone who is convinced of the need for education and the training of young people to support our mission in a country dislocated by the horrors of war and where the future of not only of the Church but of humanity as a whole, is being sorely questioned. 

By: Nare Mohamadi Jean Dieudonné, M.Afr.

Joseph Foucaud R.I.P.

Society of the Missionaries of Africa

Father Michel Girard Provincial Delegate of the sector of France,
informs you of the return to the Lord of Father

Joseph Foucaud

on Sunday, 19th May 2024 in Billère (France)
at the age of 91 years, of which 61 years of missionary life
in DR Congo and France.

Let us pray for him and for his loved ones.

Download here the announcement of Father Joseph Foucaud’s death

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Roma Cura Roma: Small Actions Make a Difference

On 11 May 2024, the Rome municipal authority organized a clean-up of the city. Roma Cura Roma (“Rome takes care of Rome”) is an important city event dedicated to the collective care of streets, squares, parks and green areas. Among the many volunteers who participated in the event were the Missionaries of Africa residing in the Generalate. They worked together with other members of the Via Aurelia Pilgrims group, especially the Marist Sisters and the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa (MSOLA).

At 9:00 am we gathered in front of our Generalate, collected the tools needed and moved towards the indicated areas for work. The chosen area was the path that leads to the Valle Aurelia metro station (Via Pietro Ciriaci). The stairs in front of Via Agostino Richelmy, which descend into Via Anastasio II towards the Post Office were also part of our initiative (cf. https://www.romacura.roma.it/partecipanti/missionari-dafrica-padri-bianchi-via-aurelia-pilgrims/).

The work took us more than two hours, lasting till 12:00 pm, to clean the street leading to the Valle Aurelia metro station and the one that goes to the post office. Our initiative involved cutting the grass, collecting trash, scrubbing, sweeping the street, unblocking gutters, etc. We eventually collected bags filled with plastics, glass bottles, plants, dry leaves, etc. Everything that was compostable, was brought to the compost in our garden. Passersby were often surprised to see us working. One time, one of them gave an incentive of 5 € to buy drinking water since working under the sun can be dehydrating. The organizers of Roma Cura Roma are always grateful for our generosity and the work done. Rakes, plastic brooms, plastic rubbish bags and other materials for the work were given and collected from Piazza Sempione, Rome.

“Small actions make a difference”, argued a volunteer who joined our event. Our initiative was a response to Pope Francis’ call to care for our common home. His Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ and Apostolic Exhortation Laudate Deum call for a radical ecological conversion. An ecological metanoia involves listening to the cry of the vulnerable and the earth. How? By doing simple things such as cleaning the neighborhood, reducing waste, tracking how many hours are spent on devices to save energy, planting more native and fruit trees, etc., in the hope that such actions will ignite personal and community transformation.

It is worth recalling that last year, around the same time, the Missionaries of Africa took a similar initiative. As earlier stated, Roma Cura Roma is a day dedicated to the voluntary care of streets, squares, parks, and green areas of the city. This year’s 3rd edition, according to ROMA of Saturday, 11 May 2024, more than 300 initiatives were registered, bringing together 16.000 participants.

By: Prosper Harelimana, M. Afr.

When the righteous multiply, the people rejoice

Context

We are experiencing significant upheavals that affect all aspects of life in society because, as they say, social facts are total and global; for example, an economic crisis can destabilise the educational and security structure and compromise integral development, the foundation of peace. We, therefore, need to understand that talking about education and the culture of peace is analysing the education system hic et nunc and effectively integrating it into the formation of consciences concerning human rights, the promotion of values that guarantee justice for all peoples, and the creation of a stable economic environment for all. In short, to ensure integral development and prevent crises that could undermine peace initiatives.

We want to mention a few educational programmes such as Human Rights and Citizenship Education (EDHC) implemented in Ivory Coast to facilitate the transition towards a culture of peace; the Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up in 1996 by Nelson Mandela to promote National Unity and Reconciliation in South Africa; The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CVR), set up to promote peace and reconciliation during the inter-Congolese dialogue in April 2002; El Centro de Justicia para la Paz y el Desarrollo (CEPAD), set up in 2006 in Mexico (Jalisco) to ensure access to truth, justice and support for victims of torture and families of missing persons. These educational programmes have, without doubt, contributed significantly to the promotion of peace and social integration. However, their scope has often been limited by political and economic constraints.

The culture of peace at risk

The rise of tensions in the world is worrying and raises questions. Is education equipped to meet the challenges of promoting a culture of peace? Education is, first and foremost, a process of laying the foundations for coexistence, justice for all, opportunities for all, and conflict resolution to guarantee harmony in societies. Education, along with truth, enables openness to the realities of the world and an authentic social praxis. Unfortunately, education is akin to a culture of information without constructive criticism. In other words, it is reduced to training professionals for the job market to the detriment of different values of social integration. We are confronted with an education focusing on production, which becomes the yardstick of success. Such an education, whose main objective is to make money, has yet to contribute to the integral development and protection of the culture of peace.

Another factor that undermines the culture of peace is the economic crisis. The lack of resources and financial independence puts many communities at risk of destabilisation and implosion, as in the case of networks of kidnappers. The media bring us daily news of families whose members are in the hands of kidnappers. This is a growing problem in the context of our mission and many other parts of the world. The proliferation of kidnappers is a consequence of the economic crisis, social frustration and friction. In short, structures of injustice are often at the root of this breakdown, making it challenging to promote a culture of peace.

There is also the migration crisis. Mexico is a corridor that many migrants use to enter the United States. Thousands of refugees from Latin America and Haiti travel on foot and by train, pushing the limits of human effort to the very limit to reach the border between Mexico and the United States. It’s a dangerous crossing, sometimes without success. These refugees, crushed by misery, are often victims of drug cartels and other criminal organisations for economic gain or mass recruitment.

Building a culture of peace

Having described the context, followed by an analysis of some of the facts that undermine efforts to promote a culture of peace, we will now look at some of the actions undertaken by the local Church through committed religious and lay people. Our two communities in Mexico have small cells where we welcome people who want to talk, offering them a place to listen. Many people want to speak to us. We direct our candidates to help in this area, along with some religious and lay people involved in refugee reception structures. The involvement of our candidates is part of the academic curriculum for the formation of human values such as voluntary service, helping people in difficult situations, respect for human life and so on. Once a year, the Justice and Peace Commission organises a march in which confreres participate as a form of solidarity for true peace and justice for all.

We launch missionary calendars in several parishes in the diocese from October to January, with a message that incarnates a missionary approach centred on interculturality as an expression of the desire to live together. It should be emphasised that peace is a universal culture that needs people to pass it on from one generation to the next through a selfless education based on the deep-rooted values of truth, freedom, justice for all, and so on. “When the righteous multiply, the people rejoice; but when the wicked prevail, the people groan” (Prov. 29:2). Despite the complexity of the structures that give rise to refugee movements, inter-community conflicts and social upheavals, we must remain hopeful, because the action of people of goodwill through holistic training is like a tiny seed of hope. The main challenges of the future are respect for human rights and peace.

By: Raphaël Muteba, M.Afr.

Education and a culture of peace

This subject, education and a culture of peace is vital and remains topical in the Gospel we are called to proclaim in and out of season. It is part of the being of the Church and its action in the world as a gift of Christ Jesus. It is her way of living and radiating peace that she becomes an educator of peace, inculcated in the values of the cultures she is sent to. That’s why we Missionaries of Africa feel so comfortable when we learn local languages, the doors through which we enter local cultures to announce the Good News and the Peace of the Risen Christ!

We need to think back to how often we mention the word “peace” during our liturgical celebrations: “Peace be with you” or the following prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles: ‘I leave you Peace, my Peace I give you’; look not on our sins but on the faith of your Church; Your will may be done, grant her peace and unity according to your will, who live and reign forever and ever”. Then, we give ourselves the peace of Christ. We live and give what we have received from Christ. We continue to live it in his light with our mother, the Church.

The following summarises my experience during the post-election inter-ethnic conflicts in Kenya in 2008-2013. At the time, I was a formator in our formation house in Nairobi/Balozi. With the Association of Psychologists of Kenya, of which I am a member, we visited a lot of IDP camps to provide psychological support and material assistance. We received a great deal of support from the local Church.

The Christian religion, an agent of peace on a global scale

On a global scale, religious actors play an important role in peace education, bringing people together to manage conflicts. They are in the right position to preach and teach, mainly by raising awareness of religious beliefs and encouraging tolerance within communities. Their role is thus to foster the development of peace.

Two essential elements of religious life are paramount to peacemaking: empathy and compassion. Mercy draws from these attributes the strength for effective peacemaking.

There is a link between our Christian faith and peace. Certain religious characteristics are associated with peace, for example, when a country has a dominant religious group. Individualised education programmes achieve higher levels of peace in countries without dominant religious groups and with fewer government restrictions on religion.

Christian religion also leads to development. Religion affects economic decision-making by establishing social norms and shaping individual personalities. Companies in highly religious communities adhere to ethical standards conducive to a stable economy.

Christian religion is, therefore, an essential key to the development of society. Religion fulfils several functions for society. These include (a) giving meaning and purpose to life, (b) strengthening social unity and stability, (c) acting as an agent of social control over behaviour, (d) promoting physical and psychological well-being, and (e) motivating people to work for positive social change. Ecumenical, interfaith and intercultural dialogue can make an enormous contribution to this.

Consider the contributions of the Christian religion to society: it reinforces individuals, families, communities and society as a whole. It has a significant impact on educational and professional achievement. It reduces the incidence of major social problems, such as out-of-wedlock births, drug and alcohol abuse, crime and delinquency.

Therefore, the Church’s role in maintaining societal peace and security is essential. It has always taught its members the action of non-reprisal, as Jesus himself taught; this helps to absorb violence rather than leading to its escalation. As a result, every cycle of violence that provokes revenge, which in turn provokes more violence, is broken by the simple act of tolerance, dialogue and non-retaliation.

Christians are, therefore, those who follow and put into practice the teachings of Christ in all areas of their lives. One of the summits of Christianity, or Christian virtue, is peace. The Bible urges Christians to embrace and live in peace with their neighbours.

Reconciliation in Kenya during the post-election period 2008-2013

The Church’s peace-building, reconciliation and restoration process was launched by forming the Kenya Bishops’ Conference Commission because it could not be left alone in the hands of politicians. The Church was called to a ministry of reconciliation and exercised a spiritual mandate following the electoral crisis. The Church closely monitored the process to ensure that it genuinely aimed at achieving national healing, not simply a whitewash to sweep past injustices under the carpet for political expediency. The Church used the pulpit to teach and preach genuine forgiveness and reconciliation and to encourage people to participate in a just and comprehensive way of dealing with the past so that the nation could truly be healed of its many wounds. The Church had an ongoing responsibility to heal the trauma of past violence between its members.

The social realities within societies were taken seriously. Conflicts must be seen as events not isolated in their social context. The peacemaking techniques used by the Church in the post-election period from 2008 to 2013 focused on the structural aspects of restoring or building relationships between former rivals.

This approach assumes that equal interaction between the parties and economic and political restructuring leads to new bonds of cooperation that stabilise peaceful relations. The Church has focused on structural elements such as exchanging representatives in various political, economic and cultural spheres. Maintaining formal and regular communication channels and an essential part of the structural actions promoted by the Church consisted of treating the other party with respect, justice, equality and sensitivity to its needs and objectives.

By: François-Xavier Bigeziki, M.Afr.

Wilfried Langer R.I.P.

Society of the Missionaries of Africa

Father Ludwig Peschen, Provincial Delegate of the sector of Germany,
informs you of the return to the Lord of Brother

Wilfried Langer

on Sunday, 5th May 2024 in Hechingen (Germany)
at the age of 83 years, of which 57 years of missionary life
in Burkina Faso, Mali and in Germany.

Let us pray for him and for his loved ones.

Download here the announcement of Brother Wilfried Langer’s death

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Experiencing the Ascension in Jerusalem

Placing the Ascension of the Lord Jesus on the summit of the Mount of Olives is not just a fulfillment of religious traditions, but a profound testament to the significance of this mountain. The history and geography of the Holy Land illuminate why the Mount of Olives is the custodian of the memory of this pivotal event in our salvation.

The Scriptures tell us of two places where our Lord ascended. After the Resurrection, the Risen Lord met his disciples in Galilee (Matthew 28:16). The Acts of the Apostles situates the site of the Ascension at the summit of the Mount of Olives in the east of Jerusalem (Acts of the Apostles 1, 9-12).

The northern part of the Mount of Olives is known by several names: “The hunter’s vineyard” in Arabic, KARM ES SAYAD and “Little Galilee” in Greek tradition. The words VIRI GALILAEI (in Latin: men of Galilee) are an allusion to the words addressed to the apostles in Acts 1:11: “People of Galilee, why do you stand there looking up to heaven?

So why the Mount of Olives and not Mount Zion?

The choice of the Mount of Olives was no accident. Jesus appropriated the whole of human history to bring it to perfection. The Mount of Olives is the guardian of Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions.

The Mount of Olives was called HAR HAMISHKHA, ‘Mount of Unction’ during the Second Temple, possibly in memory of the anointing of Solomon, crowned king in an improvised ceremony held in a hurry near the spring of Gihôn in the city of David. The way this ceremony is recounted in the first book of Kings foreshadows Jesus’ solemn entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday: “They (Zadok the Priest, Nathan the Prophet…) put Solomon on King David’s mule and went down to Gihon. Then Zadok, the priest, took the horn of oil from the Tent and anointed Solomon; the horn was blown, and all the people shouted: “Long live King Solomon! And the people played the flute and rejoiced with great joy and shouted as though the earth would burst” (1 Kings 1:38-40). The same thing will happen on Palm Sunday: Jesus will come from Bethphage, on the other side of the Mount of Olives, riding on a colt; descending the Mount, he will cross the Kidron valley to go up the Temple Mount and enter Jerusalem. Then the people accompanied him, shouting joyfully, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord…”. (Mark 11, 9)

The “Mount of Unction” is named for the olive oil produced there. Olives from this mountain were used to make oil, which was used to anoint kings and prophets and for liturgical celebrations in the Temple. Jesus is God’s anointed par excellence. It is only natural that he should ascend to heaven, where he is seated at the right hand of God the Father on the Mount of Unction.

Many Jews wanted to be buried on the western side of the Mount of Olives. Believing that being buried opposite the Temple Mount meant resting on safe ground for the Last Judgement. Indeed, the prophet Zechariah foretold that on that day, history would be fulfilled: “The feet of the Lord will rest on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem to the east. Then the Lord my God will come, and all the saints with him” (Zechariah 14:4-5). Zechariah’s prophecy speaks of “the feet of the Lord”. Today, in the Sanctuary of the Ascension on the Mount of Olives, there is a stone bearing the footprints of Jesus as he ascended to heaven.

The importance of the Mount of Olives is also recognised in the Muslim tradition. In Sura 1, verse 6 mentions the straight path: “Lead us in the straight path”. The term “straight path” is called “sirat” and has two meanings, depending on the era. In ancient Islam, it meant the right path or the path to be followed. In medieval Islam, it was given added spatial significance: the right path was associated with the bridge that would link the Mount of Olives to the Mount of the Temple when the Messiah comes. Here, the Muslim tradition is similar to the Jewish tradition. Still, with a twist: at the Last Judgement, all the believers of ALLAH buried on the Mount of Olives will be resurrected and have to cross a bridge built over seven arches linking it to the Temple Mount. The “righteous” will cross the bridge without difficulty, while the “unrighteous” will fall into the Kidron. And so, there are Muslim graves in the Kidron Valley, in the shadow of the ramparts close to the esplanade of the Al Aqsa Mosque, around the Golden Gate, the gate through which, according to Jewish tradition, the Messiah must pass to enter the Temple and pronounce judgement.

Today, the Sanctuary of the Ascension is managed and guarded by Muslims. It is an exceptional site, as it is used as a mosque and, depending on the occasion, as a Christian church. Inside the mosque is the stone bearing the footprints of Jesus as he ascended to heaven, as mentioned above. This is how Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions unite on Mount Olives.

The Feast of the Ascension today

Jesus chose a mountain with olive trees, a mountain outside Jerusalem just a short distance from the holy city. He did not choose Mount Zion, which is in the city. He kept the symbol of the olive tree, a tree typical of the Mediterranean basin, a tree God gave to his people together with the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 6, 10-12). The olive tree is like the tree that “bears fruit in its season, and its leaves never die” (Psalm 1, 3). It is also the symbol of the righteous and peace since it is always green and bears fruit only after careful, patient nurturing, in other words, after a long period of peace. According to Jewish tradition, the olive branch brought to Noah’s Ark by the dove after the flood waters had receded came from the Mount of Unction.

Olive oil, the fruit of the olive tree and human labour, is food, perfume, medicine and essential for lighting lamps. This rich symbolism is abundantly repeated in the sacraments of the Church (CCC nos. 1293 and 695), which bring us into the realities beyond. Therein lies the spirituality of the Ascension. Once sanctified by the presence and, above all, the blessing of Christ, our earthly realities are lifted up to heaven: “He who was taken from you, the same Jesus, will come just as you saw him go up to heaven” (Acts 1:11).

Jews, Christians and Muslims all believe that the Messiah will return. In response to a question from a participant in the session, here at Saint Anne’s in Jerusalem, to a rabbi about the coming of the Messiah, the rabbi replied: “When the Messiah comes, we will ask him if this is the first time he has come into the world, or if it is the second time.

By: Grégoire Milombo, M.Afr.