“The future will be as God wills”: he looks at what he has lived and less at what awaits him, the missionary, originally from the province of Crema, released on 8 October last after the imprisonment that began in 2018 at the hands of jihadists between Niger and Mali. He does so in an interview with the Fides agency in which he also mentions Vatican Radio and the possibility, through its frequencies, of listening to the voice of the Pope “breath of fresh air” in the darkness of imprisonment

Gabriella Ceraso – Vatican City

Silence, mission, death, prayer: it is a flood, exciting, Father Pierluigi Maccalli in the interview – the first after his release on 8 October last – granted to the Fides agency. The 59-year-old missionary of the African Mission Society, kidnapped in September two years ago in Niger, is now in his home in Madignano in the province of Crema, among family members, citizens and confreres who, with the power of prayer, they supported from a distance and today they are confirmation for him that “the Mission is in God’s hands, it is Missio Dei”.

The testimony that emerges is that of a missionary totally entrusted to the hands of the Father, who has prayed and continues to pray for his jailers and who still needs time to understand what this affair will mean for his life “.” Taken away in slippers and pajamas “,” considered a ‘kafir’, impure, and condemned to hell “, the missionary sums up the time of imprisonment in two verbs:” resist to exist “.” My only support was prayer simple morning and evening that I learned in the family from my mother and grandmother’s rosary as a contemplative prayer “. A long period of” silence, purification, a return to the origins and to the essential “and many questions:” I shouted as outburst and lament to God: where are you? why have you forsaken me? Until when Lord? I knew and I know that He is there! But I know that God can be seen from behind, now that I am free, back home I am beginning to understand “.

“My only support was the simple morning and evening prayer”

From Vatican Radio the Pope’s voice: a breath of fresh air

Two long years in which there was no lack of what Father Gigi defines as “gifts”, “breaths of the Holy Spirit”. Like the one that arrived on the day of Pentecost 2020. From May 20, when he got hold of a radio, he says, “I was able to listen to the commentary on the Sunday Gospel from Vatican Radio every Saturday. Once even the live Mass … was precisely the mass of Pentecost 2020 “. The moment is special, the Pope’s homily is “a breath of fresh air”. “That morning – he says – to my great surprise I listen to Pope Francis in Italian, I close my ear and tune the radio better and I find myself at the beginning of the Pentecost mass in communion with the Pope, the church and the world. I tell myself” today I am in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and at the same time on a mission in Africa. I listen with some emotion to the readings and the Gospel that remind me of the motto of my priestly ordination, the passage from the Gospel of John (Jn 20): ‘As the father has gone I also send you. Receive the Holy Spirit’ “.

“Mission is not just ‘doing’, but silence and fundamentally it is Missio Dei”

Missionary from the bottom of my heart

For two years, therefore, prayer never ceased in the hands, on the lips, in the heart of Father Gigi, even in the absence of the Eucharist, and this was his salvation. “Every day and especially every Sunday I said the consecrating words’ this is my body offered, ‘bread broken for the world and Africa. In the morning prayer I prayed a French hymn … and ended by adding -‘ I have no other offer than the offering of my life ‘. Every Sunday I gave myself a good evangelical to meditate on, especially on the occasion of the strong times of Advent-Christmas and Lent-Easter. Fear of being killed? “Only once – Father Gigi replies – I received expressly a threat … indeed a promise of a bullet in the forehead “, instead” I have always felt myself a missionary even with my feet chained, I would say ‘missionary from the bottom of my heart’. I often walked on the slopes of Bomoanga-Niger. My body was a prisoner of the sand dunes, but my spirit went to the villages that I mentioned in my prayer and I also repeated the names of my collaborators and of many people and young people that I carry in my heart especially the malnourished and sick children of whom I I am busy and many many faces that are a living presence in my wounded heart. I realized that mission is not just ‘doing’, but silence and fundamentally it is Missio Dei, it is the work of the Lord “.

The future is in God’s hands

Today there is no rancor towards those who held him prisoner only “much sadness” for those whom Father Pierluigi defines as “young people indoctrinated by propaganda videos”, who “do not know what they are doing” and to whom. indeed, before release. he wished in French to “realize one day that we are all brothers”. The interview ends with an eye to tomorrow, a tomorrow that the missionary hoped would rise every day, during his imprisonment, and that today he hands over to God: “at every sunset I said ‘let’s hope tomorrow’. Then at sunrise. I took up my rosary and continued to rhythm my day with the usual daily gestures, day after day. The future belongs to God, now I enjoy returning home, this is my present “.