With the Venerable Don Tonino Bello, on the Paths of Isaiah

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A message from Bishop Giovanni Ricchiuti, president of Pax Christi Italy (translated from Italian).

Pax Christi Italy, who saw the Venerable Don Tonino Bello as its unforgettable president from 1985 to 1993, is filled with joy over this wonderful news! Thanks to the Lord, thanks to Pope Francis, and thanks to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in the person of the Prefect Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, for this gift!  

During the Italian Episcopal Conference this morning, while it was proposed that the poor should not be forgotten in the synodal journey, we received the news that Don Tonino Bello was declared venerable. This news encourages us to continue the journey on the paths of Isaiah, paths of justice, disarmament, and peace! This news charges us with additional responsibility—relaunching the prophetic message of Don Tonino, avoiding the risk of gratification that is only emotional or that can become the reason for a memory that is no longer inspiring. For us, Don Tonino still has a message of strong prophetic challenge: “Rise up, peacebuilders!”  

Each of us, all together as Pax Christi, as a people of peace, as a church, as a community, as a civil society, have the duty to be protagonists of the culture of active nonviolence. We must also show caring in a world that seems to slide towards the degradation of a violence no longer perceived as a danger because it has become almost endemic—present daily in human, personal, social, political, and economic relationships up to large systems that rely on violence for their perpetuation (and today is the international day for the elimination of violence against women!).   

There is a world that cries out: the cry of the victims of wars, also fought with weapons made in Italy, the cry of the poor, the cry of the earth, the cry of those seeking justice, acceptance, to be recognised in their dignity. Don Tonino asks us to be a people on our feet, who are not resigned, who are not content with repeating only empty words or phrases that can only gratify and be self-referential. Today Pope Francis invites us to relaunch this prophetic charge. Courage and parrhesia are asked of us. Building peace and fellowship within the conviviality of differences. Peace as a vision. One that comes true with everyone’s commitment.  

For us, remembering Don Tonino is having a ‘subversive memory’, as he said of the scandal of Jesus who opposes the world of violence with gentleness and dialogue.  

Don Tonino venerable indeed! We feel it as a thorn in our side of our commitment to be ‘contempl-active’ in Pax Christi, with the Casa per la Pace, with the magazine Mosaico di pace, with the work of all the members. A joy and a thorn that binds us together, men and women who love peace.