On the border with Myanmar the experience of Father Crippa with the "pastoral care of Reconciliation"

01 March 2021

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The sacrament of reconciliation is the theme of Pope Francis’ Intention of prayer for evangelization for the month of March 2021: "Let us pray that we may experience the sacrament of reconciliation with renewed depth, to taste the infinite mercy of God".

A "pastoral care of reconciliation" is that carried out by Father Alessio Crippa, a Xaverian missionary, destined to carry out missionary service in an area - Umphang, Tak province - on the border between Thailand and Myanmar, in Thai territory. The area straddling the two nations is inhabited by the Karen people, one of the majority ethnic groups in Myanmar. The Karen-Burmese conflict has dragged on for seventy years, deeply affecting society in those areas: victims of violence, many Karen families have sought refuge in Thailand and have been welcomed in the nine Centers for Refugees and Asylum Seekers along the border. Father Crippa with his Xaverian missionary confreres offers pastoral service in these centers, strongly marked by the need for Reconciliation that people feel. These people need to be listened to, to receive the gift of time available and the guarantee of the inviolability of their confidences. "Certainly even more inviolable if this listening is not just any kind of listening, but is an integral part of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The ministerial service can only reach the few Catholics present in the Camp, while for all the others I can speak of a dialogue of Reconciliation. In both cases, the essential element is empathy: to tiptoe into the mystery of the history and life of the other which is always a sacred place that the Sacrament of Reconciliation comes to inhabit and rehabilitate in a new way, through the sanctifying action of Grace", explains Father Crippa. "The Spirit makes the penitent a new person and approaching the Sacrament becomes a place of re-creation. The experience I can tell is that of having seen people capable of reviewing their painful past from a new point of view: the one dictated by the Spirit that makes one see things in God's way. This new point of view puts the person on his feet and allows him to walk with the awareness of bearing healed wounds: it is incredible to note how some people, thanks to a past - a place of action of the Father's mercy - find themselves becoming points of reference for many, agents of reconciliation for others, safe havens for other refugees with similar stories. Offering the Sacrament of Reconciliation or in any case setting up a pastoral care of Reconciliation with non-Christians is a concrete way to touch how the Spirit of God is in action especially in the peripheries, among the marginalized, the excluded, the refugees who become the favorite children of a God who died on the cross and Risen for us. Looking at the lives of these refugees I can see on their faces the wounds of the Risen Christ, which, transfigured into a New Body, become sources of Grace for all. As a missionary, I find myself dealing with a reality that upsets me, the one that leads these wounded people to be more real missionaries than me, in going to offer moments of reconciliation and consolation to many others in the refugee camp where they are".