03/29/2013, 00.00
AFGHANISTAN

For Kabul priest, Calvary offers the hope of the Resurrection in times of war

Fr Giuseppe Moretti describes Holy Week in Afghanistan's tiny Christian community. For him, the mission of the Church in Afghanistan is primarily with soldiers, the only ones who have direct contact with the Afghan population.

Kabul (AsiaNews) - "In a country that seems to have no way out, let us pray that after Calvary, Resurrection will follow. Here, the Passion of Christ is represented by millions of people who suffer every day the tragedy of war, hatred and poverty," said Fr Giuseppe Moretti, a priest in charge of the parish church inside the Italian Embassy (pictured). The tiny Christian community, he told AsiaNews, is "a catacomb Church, quiet, discreet, but industrious because it bears witness to Christ amid the Afghan people through the example of their life and the daily presence the Eucharist."

Despite difficulties, many people are participating in Holy Week celebrations this year. The presence of soldiers, including high-ranking officers, at Mass is a sign of hope. "The Church was packed on Palm Sunday," the clergyman said. "Palm trees are a symbol of peace, but here, everything reminds us of Afghanistan's terrible reality, which is dominated by war."

Today, the small community celebrated the liturgy of the Passion. This will be followed by Easter vigil and a solemn mass. "We expect many people, especially during the vigil, but those who come do so at their own risk," Father Moretti explained.

In a country that is 99 per cent Muslim, mentioning the Gospels is prohibited. Christians are not allowed to display religious symbols and only a daily Mass can be performed. Processions cannot even take place inside the embassy.

"This is not an obstacle," Fr Moretti noted. "We are approaching Easter with enthusiasm and the fullness [of time], as we were inside a beautiful cathedral. The location makes no difference, Christ's presence does."

For Fr Moretti, the mission means first and foremost working with the soldiers who have direct contact with the Muslim population. "The values ​​of the Gospel," he said, "are also passed on through them."

The six priests in the country all serve as military chaplains stationed in the various NATO bases around the country. Their task is to help Christians working in the country rediscover their faith.

"During Chrism Mass on 24 March, we saw that our presence made sense only if we lived as Pope Francis put it, as true "shepherds living with the smell of the sheep," bearing witness to the Gospel wherever the Lord sends us.

About 15 men and women religious operate in Afghanistan, Father Moretti included. The Little Sisters of Jesus (four in total) are the oldest group. They have been active in the country for 50 years and earned even the respect of the Taliban.

With the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, the Sisters of Mother Teresa were allowed into the country. Since 2006, they have been working with the sick and poor.

Another group recognised and appreciated by Kabul residents is a children's association that works with orphans and the disabled. (S.C.)

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