Rector Major of Don Bosco Fr Ángel Fernández Artime has stated that his purpose of visiting all the Salesian houses in the different Salesian provinces the world over is to help encourage the work that they do.
Fr Fernandez was speaking at a press conference towards the end of his first visit to the Salesian province of Panaji. Appointed as Rector Major in 2014, Fr Fernandez is the 10th successor of Don Bosco and the first Spaniard to be elected to this position. His visit to the province was filled with tons of activities including the blessing and inauguration of the new formation house for the Salesians called Pre Novitiate House at Loutolim, Goa, praying at the Salesian Cemetery at Fatorda and addressing more than 1000 youth of the province gathered at Don Bosco College of Engineering, Fatorda.
“What is significant about the Rector Major’s visit to Panaji is that as much as he is a representative of Don Bosco, for us, it is like Don Bosco himself is visiting his children,” said provincial of the Salesian Province of Panaji, Fr Felix Fernandes, adding that the last visit of a rector major to the Panaji province was in 2007.
Having already visited 87 countries in which the Salesians have their presence (ie around 130), Fr Fernandez is on his fourth visit to India.
“Above all, it is a wonderful experience to meet the young directly, not just here but all over the world. My main message to all of them is one of great hope,” he said, adding that he found a great vitality and enthusiasm among all the Salesian houses that he has gone to.
“I’ve been to different states right from Kerala and Tamil Nadu to Assam and met Salesians who are from other parts of the world who have stayed on in India for over 40 years,” he said. He did acknowledge that the greatest challenge that India faces is how to overcome the great poverty that is prevalent. “Poverty exists in almost every nation in the world including Spain where I come from. But I understand that for a country like India with a big population it is just not easy,” he said. But one’s perspective should stay positive, he said, and added that education is of great importance. “According to me, education is a wonderful garment for any nation. It not just contributes to the present but also gives a future. It is a way to offer people very diverse ways of coming forward. And I can confidently say that the Salesian Society is doing their part here in India as far as education is concerned,” he said.
Speaking about his perception of India, he stated that he found the country to be a wonderful place despite its diversity. “Wherever I have gone I have met youngsters of mainly three major religions –Islam, Hinduism and Christianity and was struck by how they related to each other. I feel that the greatness of any nation is to have the capability of living together in the diversity of the place,” he said. He did however acknowledge that there are instances of people trying to cause trouble based on religious differences.
Speaking further about violence, he stated that, “Violence in any sense does not bring any benefits to anyone. Issues need to be resolved through dialogue. According to me peace is the only way.”
Addressing the issue of drugs, he admitted that drug abuse among youth is a serious problem. “I believe in prevention. We must do two things,” he said. “Fight against those who sell drugs. Fight against countries that allow corruption. Drug corrupts. It corrupts the society, it demolishes social service.”
On Saturday evening, Rector Major along with archbishop of Goa and Daman Filipe Neri Ferrao and bishop of Sindhudurg, Alwyn Barreto concelebrated the Holy Eucharist at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, Don Bosco, Panaji.
The press conference was introduced by Illidio Noronha and translated from Spanish into English by Fr Ralin de Souza.