09/26/2012, 00.00
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Father Giancarlo Bossi, a man with a strong, happy and challenging faith

by Giancarlo Politi
A thousand people and 60 priests bid Fr Giancarlo Bossi farewell in an open-air ceremony after the church proved too small for the large crowd. Card Angelo Scola sent a message. Fr Giancarlo Politi, who pronounced the homily, was Fr Bossi's friend for 40 years.

Milan (AsiaNews) - The funeral of Fr Giancarlo Bossi was held yesterday in Castelletto di Abbiategrasso in the presence of about a thousand worshippers and 60 priests. A missionary with the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), Father Giancarlo had become a household name in Italy and around the world after he was abducted and held for 40 days by Muslim militants in Mindanao (Philippines), in 2007. Since the church where the funeral service was scheduled to take place was too small for all the participants, the function was held outside.

After his captors released him, Fr Bossi came back to Italy for a short period. He eventually returned to the Philippines, a country where he had spent some 30 years of his life working as a missionary; however, lung disease forced him back to Italy in 2010. He passed away last Sunday night at the age of 62.

Card Angelo Scola sent a message that was read during the funeral. In it, the archbishop of Milan expressed his closeness to the priest's family, the PIME community, and the people of Abbiategrasso as well as all his friends.

The prelate remembered Fr Bossi as the "a man of faith, strong and happy, generous and free, a missionary of the Gospel, a helpful and tireless frontline operator."

Speaking about the address Fr Giancarlo delivered before 300,000 young people in Loreto, Card Scola said that this "gave him an opportunity to use words of challenge to re-awake slumbering Christian communities, encourage timid vocations, and pass onto young people friendly words that admonish but also hold promise. Even during the long journey of his illness, he revealed his big heart and strong desire for God and prayer."

During the funeral, a testimonial by Fr Bossi's confrere in mission, Fr Fernando Milani, was read. Many Filipinos attended the Mass, accompanied by their community's chaplain. The ceremony itself was led by Fr Livio Maggi, PIME vicar general. The homily was delivered by Fr Giancarlo Politi, Fr Bossi's friend for some 40 years. These are his words.

The Lord's "Passion" has led our short steps, our prayer, with which we bid Fr Giancarlo Bossi farewell, wounding its way around and accompanying what happened to the Lord himself.

The believing Church's long experience has always sought to read our life through the Jesus story. In fact, what we are doing makes sense above all for one reason. We see in Giancarlo's life, God's action and ways.

Let the Word speak to us then, let us remember it better, let us remember Giancarlo's, so closely modelled on that of Jesus.

Death seems to strip the man it seizes of everything, silently closing the book on his earthly affairs, loves and relations. We shall never hear Giancarlo's warm laughter, but he shall continue to be with us through the Word of Jesus, who truly interpreted what a man is. Only the Master's word can tell us who and what we are.

Giancarlo gave himself to life in an endless effort to give meaning in his disarming simplicity. His heart held a nagging desire to belong totally to God, even when he seemed unable to find the words to express it. The desire to live intensely explains another intense craving, namely to give himself to serving people and his fellow travellers, joyfully, without tricks or glamour.

He knew one thing well. Life is not and cannot be a solitary adventure. On the contrary, it is always a very personal response to the One who gave us life.

He was a pleasantly simple man, capable of enjoying the beauty of life, and yet utterly incapable of tolerating injustice, violence, subterfuges of any kind and from anyone.

He was convinced that responding to God's call could not be done without respect for others. In his frequent and guarded silence during our seemingly scholarly discussions, he was decisive when word and deed threatened to lead to abuses. At that point, he either spoke up or left.

Responding to God, the living God, was the only reason to leave for and work in the Philippines, where he had arrived in 1980.

Even during his final week, conscious that he was running out of time, he still planned to go back to a land that was "his home" for almost three decades. He felt poor in everything, but rich in a desire to share, do the right thing, and be happy about being himself and of what he had.

Living along side Filipinos taught him a great lesson: the joy of life was not and could not the outcome of one's own efforts alone. It came from giving oneself over to God, from one's unconditional "I" to Him, God, letting him run one's life.

For him, this was the greatest burden, as it is for me. Giancarlo knew that it all boiled down to learning to say a disarming "Yes," every day.

God acts and changes hearts. God calls upon men and women to be ready to set off on a journey to meet people who do not know or who do not want to know that God cares for everyone; the way the Son did.

The "thank you" we would like to express is rooted in this because in Giancarlo Bossi we saw "how" God acts.

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