Italian SMA witnesses to events in Cairo
Fr Renzo Mandirola SMA is a former Provincial of the SMA Italian Province. He also served on the SMA General Council in Rome for 12 years, 6 as General Councillor and 6 as Vicar General. Since 2008 he is responsible for Research in the SMA Archives in Rome. He is also an author of several Spiritual books and is a noted Retreat giver and Lecturer, particularly on the life of the SMA Founder, Bishop de Brésillac. One of his most important works is on the life of Francesco Borghero, one of the early SMA missionaries in west Africa.
He gave the following account to Agenzia Fides on the recent events in Egypt, which occurred from 24 January to 12 February.
“I am in Egypt to run a spiritual exercises course for the Egyptian sisters of Our Lady of the Apostles, the female section of my Institute. They were supposed to take place in the neighbourhood of Maadi. In front of their door is the Coptic-Catholic Patriarchal Seminary where courses for the postulants of the Sisters also take place.
“The other neighbourhood, Shoubra, is quite different from the first one, despite the significance of the name of the little village which has about four million inhabitants. In addition to the sisters’ provincial house in Shoubra, there is the Catholic Latin parish of St Mark which is used by the priests of Our Lady of the Apostles who have been in Egypt since 1877. Here, there are also four seminarians studying Arabic and Islamic culture,” says Fr Mandirola.
After describing the outbreak of the first uprisings, the missionary observes, “it was surely not the lack of police in Egypt, yet at a certain moment they were gone. The districts were no longer protected, many criminals were released. The shops and banks began to be looted, even the Egyptian Museum, with the complicity of some police officers, has borne the brunt. People said it was all deliberate: to cause chaos by sowing fear and then claim the right to reinstate order. The role of the police, who killed some and beat others, the arrest of the Interior Minister accused of having orchestrating the attack on the Coptic Church of St Catherine of Alexandria, has resulted in the police force losing a lot of credibility. The army, however, which accounts for more than a million soldiers, distinguished itself by not aligning against the people from the outset: “we will not fire on demonstrators,” they said. Naturally, it was impressive crossing Cairo on Sunday, 5 February, and see in certain arteries of the city an army tank every ten metres.”
The missionary said that “all those who were in Tahrir Square continually said that what united them was not religion nor politics, but the desire to create a State with a lay Constitution able to assure to every man and woman the same dignity and equal rights and duties and give everyone the chance to profess their faith freely.”
“In this context, Christians should be able to sit at the negotiating table where the Constitution will be redrafted and have a say, not to ask for privileges, but like everyone else to have the possibility of a job, even if they are Christians, and to finally feel at home in a Country where Christianity has been since its inception,” concludes Fr Mandirola. (Agenzia Fides 17/2/2011)