One of my confreres, after visiting the centre, proposed Sister Elvira as president of the Central African Republic, even if only for a single term. I doubt very much if Sister Elvira has any ambitions in this direction, but at any rate, just this year the president of the Italian Republic formally recognised her achievements by awarding her the honorary title of Commendatore of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic.
In the Cathedral of Berberati we met the young Bishop Dennis Agbenyadzi, who is originally from Ghana and who entertained us by telling us a few of his own missionary experiences, in particular involving the eight years he spent as a parish priest among the pygmies of Belemboké. After this we headed still further north and halfway along our route, made a stop at the Touboutu Falls. Next we arrived in Carnot, another centre of the gold and diamond trade. We were welcomed by Padre André, an elderly missionary originally from Belgium. We visited his church of Notre Dame de la Mamberé which, though sadly now in a poor state of repair, stands like a gem of mediaeval art that has landed by chance like a meteorite in this spot.
Travelling onward towards Baoro, our penultimate stop and the place where we first opened our mission in 1973, we became immersed in a fascinating and animated debate about nature, history, beauty, and the emotions of a European and those of an African… De gustibus non est dispuntandum, as the ancients used to say. But I was not among the ancients here, but among the young, for the most part, and the argument became quite heated, to say the least. In the end, though, my opinions and my aesthetic canons were quite plainly in the minority. So I confessed myself defeated and we moved on to less contentious issues. In Baoro, as guests of our Carmelite confreres, we visited the catechists’ school, which had just been reopened. It was started originally many years ago by our confrere Padre Nicolò, the founder of our mission there, but closed again shortly after. Now it has been revived, thanks to the determination of Padre Odilon, who is dedicating himself with passion to the formation of the ten catechists living there with their families.