By Luca Caruso
“The reason my Salesian brothers thought it right in conscience to choose me as Don Bosco’s tenth successor is part of the mystery of the life of a believer.” These are the words of the Rector Major of the Salesians, Father Angel Fernandez Artime, in a book of interviews entitled Don Bosco Oggi (Don Bosco Today), written together with journalist Ángel Expósito Mora and published by the Vatican Publishing House on the bicentennial of St. John Bosco’s birth. The new book was presented April 24 at the Augustinian Patristic Institute in Rome, by the undersecretary of the Italian Ministry of Labor and Social Policy, Luigi Bobba, and by Roberto Rusconi, professor of Christian History at Roma Tre University.
The book opens with a preface by Salesian Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and is organized into 12 chapters, among them, immigration, new technologies, international politics, economics, development and underdevelopment, equality between men and women, and religious fundamentalism… What would Don Bosco do if faced with all of this? The reflections contained in this book of interviews combine his thoughts with the most complex realities of our 21st century world, giving readers an opportunity to deepen their acquaintance with Don Bosco, his charism and his charity mission, which today operates in 132 countries on every continent.
“The most-used term in this book is ‘youth,’ and Don Bosco’s tenth successor has the same father’s heart, the same teacher’s and friend’s heart, in regard to young people as did the Founder himself,” Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga comments in his preface. “The book is written with an eye to young people. And it is in the young that the future of Don Bosco’s mission lies.”
Each chapter begins with a series of questions for the Rector Major, followed by an in-depth examination by an expert. Subjects run from Don Bosco’s life to the creation of the Valdocco Oratory in what were the outskirts of Turin in the 19th Century, and the work training center in Valdocco, aimed at answering a serious need among poor and at-risk youth; from the figure of Mamma Margherita and the “preventive system” (based on the three pillars of reason, religion and loving kindness) to Don Bosco’s missionary dream, the role of the laity, the saint’s experience in communication and his relationship with the neediest of Turin’s youth.
“For me, and for us Salesians, all places, spaces and situations in which we can meet with youth are important, and, in imitation of Don Bosco and what he did during his own lifetime, we need to be committed to being present wherever young people are,” Angel Fernandez Artime says in a key passage of his interview. He names the courtyard as “one of the pillars of the Salesian educational system” and observes how Salesian pedagogy is based on personal encounter: “It is a type of teaching in which the educator encounters young people personally. The teacher calls them by name, values their aspirations and dreams, believes them capable of being the protagonists of their own lives, and recognizes in them that ‘seed of goodness’ which is hidden within the heart of every person. This is what makes young people loved, and thus capable of giving the best of themselves, the best that they have in their own hearts.”
In this world that knows too well the tragedy of conflicts and wars, the Salesian Rector Major says that “the best way to peace is to educate, and educate well!” This should be carried out through “a formation that embraces all young people, renders them strong and robust, happy now and for eternity.”
And there is a task that must be renewed: we must opt preferentially for young people, the way Don Bosco did, and from among them we must be attentive most of all to the poorest and most underprivileged.
Two photo insert sections enrich the book: one section is dedicated to period photos of Don Bosco, the places where he lived and worked; the second section shows Salesians today, across Italy and throughout the world.
The book is to be published in various other languages as well: in Croatia, by Verbum Publishers; in France, by Parole et Silence; in Germany, by Herder; in Spain, by Romana; and in the United States, by Paulist Press.
The Vatican Publishing House at Turin’s International Book Fair
The Vatican Publishing House was present at the 28th Salone Internazionale del Libro, or International Book Fair, which took place in Turin from May 14 through 18. The stand was designed by architect Roberto Pulitani, who had already created the Holy See’s exhibition pavilion at last year’s Fair. The illustrations were by Mezzana, and taken from the 1929 book, Life of Blessed Don Bosco by Salesian Gian Battista Calvi.
This backdrop was chosen especially to highlight the figure of Don Bosco, Patron Saint of Publishers, and his relationship, always that of an affectionate son, with the various pontiffs, who in their turn were always ready to assist and support him in every way.
Don Bosco’s thoughts on the production and diffusion of books were also highlighted. On a panel illustrating Don Bosco’s reflections, visitors could read his quote that “a book in a family, if not read by the member it was given to, is read by the son or by the daughter, by a friend or by a neighbor. a book in a town may be passed among a hundred people. Only God knows how much good a book can produce in a city, in a circulating library, in a workers’ circle, in a hospital, given as a token of friendship. And we must never fear that a book may be refused by some people because it is good. Rather, the opposite it true.”
This year the Vatican Publishing House participated in Turin’s International Book Fair for the first time as a single entity, and it brought out its best for the occasion, from encyclicals to papal speeches, and particularly those by Pope Francis, his catecheses, homilies and speeches.
Among these, there was quite an interesting collection of the Pope’s thoughts on prisoners, and the fifth volume of his morning homilies.
There was also a section for books by German Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in this edition of the Fair dedicated to Germany.
Also of particular note were the historiographical works by the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, and those dedicated to art, especially in its relation to religion.
Of course, there was no lack of material on Don Bosco, such as the interview with his successor, Father Angel Fernandez Artime, and a book on the relationship between Pope Francis and the saint from Turin. There was also an abundance of books on the family, and, in this year dedicated to the religious life, on this topic as well. The Milan Expo was another hot topic in the exhibit, as were the volumes put out by the Vatican Museums.
The Vatican Publishing House’s participation in the Fair was punctuated by four roundtable events, dedicated to four specific publications; these were introduced by the Press’s Director, Father Giuseppe Costa, at a press conference in Rome, at Vatican Radio’s Sala Marconi.
Thursday, May 14, there was the introduction of the book I Papi e lo Sport: Oltre un secolo di incontri e interventi, da San Pio X a Papa Francesco (The Popes and Sports: Over a Century of Meetings and Speeches, from St. Pius X to Pope Francis) in which there can be found discourses and messages that Popes sent to the sporting world from 1903 to today. This book, edited by Antonella Stelitano, Alejandro Mario Dieguez and Quirino Bortolato, was presented by Stefano Pivato, Professor of History at Italy’s Urbino University, and by Damiano Tommasi, President of the Italian Soccer Players’ Association. Heading the roundtable discussion was Maurizio Nicita, journalist for the Italian national sports daily, La Gazzetta dello Sport.
La fede e il bene comune. Offerta cristiana alla società contemporanea (Faith and the Common Good. What Christianity Offers to Contemporary Society) is the new book by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, former Vatican Secretary of State, who was present Friday, May 15, to discuss it, along with Riccardo Ghidella, the Piedmont Region president of the Christian Entrepreneurs’ and Managers’ Union, and Vicenzo Buonomo, Professor of International Law and Director of the Law Faculty at the Lateran Pontifical University. The moderator was journalist Carlo Di Cicco, and the book’s editor, Fabio Pisani, was also present. The volume, which was introduced with a special letter from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, presents a collection of speeches given by the cardinals on various occasions: speeches given at the university for the opening of the academic year, or on the occasion of conferences and lectio magistralis, all of which offer an overview on a wide gamut of problems having to do with being Christian in modern times, and on social, economic and cultural topics of current and relevant interest.
Safeguarding Creation is the topic of Il sorriso della tenerezza – Letture sulla custodia del creato (The Smile of Tenderness – Readings on Preserving Creation), by architect Paolo Portoghesi, presented Saturday, May 16. The author was present, as were Cardinal Raffaele Farina, Archivist and Librarian Emeritus of the Holy Roman Church, and well-known art critic Vittorio Sgarbi. This publication is an anthology of Christian-inspired texts concerning Creation, written in different eras ranging from three thousand years ago to the present. This anthology won the Cardinal Michele Giordano Prize, and is a finalist for the Acqui Ambient Prize.
The last event took place Sunday, May 17, with three journalists who have interviewed Pope Francis: Valentina Alazraki, Rome correspondent for Televisa Mexican Multimedia, Franca Giansoldati of the Italian daily Il Messaggero, and Elisabetta Piqué, of the Argentine daily La Nacion. They discussed the new book Interviste e conversazioni con i giornalisti. Due anni di pontificato (Interviews and Conversations. Two Years of a Pontificate) edited by Vatican Publishing House Director Father Giuseppe Costa: this work is a chronological collection of all the interviews granted by Pope Francis in his first two years as leader of the Church. The discussion was headed by Avvenire journalist Gianni Cardinale.
For the occasion, Vatican Publishing prepared a special book which offered selected prayers of Pope Francis and a collection of the illustrations of Don Bosco’s life that had been on display as part of the stand’s design. —Zenit