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Pope: Don Tonino Bello, ‘gift and prophecy for our times’

Alesano (AsiaNews) – “A gift and prophecy for our times”, this is how Pope Francis today described Msgr. Antonio Bello, “don Tonino” (1935-1993) who was bishop of Molfetta and president of Pax Christi. To commemorate the 25th anniversary of his death Pope Fraancis today travelled to Puglia.

The visit began in Alessano, where the bishop is buried. Pope Francis stopped at his tomb in prayer (in the photo). Then, in the square in front of the cemetery, Francis addressed the thousands of people gathered there. In the crowd, there were some multicolored flags of peace.

Don Tonino, “a prophet of nonviolence”, who’s cause of beatification has been underway since 2008, a singular similarity with Pope Francis has often been highlighted, in particular on issues such as the “discarded” and corruption. “Don Tonino – Francis said today – calls us not to theorize the closeness to the poor, but to be close to them, as Jesus did, that for us, as rich as he was, he became poor (cf. 2 Cor 8,9 ). Don Tonino felt the need to imitate him, involving himself in the first person, until the total surrender of self. The pleas did not disturb him, indifference hurt him. He was not afraid of the lack of money, but worried about the uncertainty of employment, a problem that is still very current today. He never missed an opportunity to reaffirm the worker with his dignity must come first, not profit with its greed “.

“True wealth for him lay in understanding the poor. He was right, because the poor are really wealth of the Church. Remember it again, Don Tonino, faced with the recurrent temptation to follow the powerful, seek privileges, to settle for a comfortable life. The Gospel – you used to remember it at Christmas and at Easter – calls to an often uncomfortable life, because those who follow Jesus love the poor and the humble “.

The bishop also authored the “Letter to my Moroccan Brother”, in which he wrote “Forgive us, if we have not been able to courageously raise our voice to force the hand of our legislators”, Francis recalled the will for peace and acceptance. “He did not – he said – idly stand by: he was acting locally to sow peace globally, in the belief that the best way to prevent violence and all kinds of wars is to take care of the needy and promote justice. In fact, if the war generates poverty, it is also true poverty generates war. Peace, therefore, is built beginning in the homes, on the streets, in the shops, where communion is molded. Don Tonino said, hopefully: “From the workshop, as one day from the workshop of Nazareth, the word of peace will emerge that will instil humanity, thirsty for justice, for new destinies”.

Dear brothers and sisters, this vocation of peace belongs to your land, to this wonderful frontier land – finis-terrae – that Don Tonino called “earth-window”, because Southern Italy is a window on a large part of the south of the world, where “The poorest are ever more numerous while the rich are getting richer and less and less”. You are an “open window, from which you can observe all the poverty that looms over history”, but above all you are a window of hope so that the Mediterranean, historical basin of civilization, is never a tense bellicose arc, but a welcoming peace arc “.

“Dear brothers and sisters – the Pope concluded – in every age the Lord puts witnesses on the path of the Church that embody the good proclamation of Easter, prophets of hope for the future of all. From your land God has given rise to one as a gift and prophecy for our times. And God desires that his gift be accepted, that his prophecy be implemented. Do not be content to write down good memories, let us not be harnessed by past nostalgia or even idle chatter of the present or fears for the future. Let us imitate Don Tonino, let us be carried away by his young Christian ardor, we feel his urgent invitation to live the Gospel without discount. It is a strong invitation to each of us and to us as a Church. It will help us to spread today the fragrant joy of the Gospel

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