Boretto (Italy).  On 8 October 2023, as part of the celebrations for the 1st anniversary of the Canonization of the Holy Salesian Brother Artemide Zatti, at Boretto, birthplace of the Saint in the province of Reggio Emilia, the new Cardinal Ángel Fernández Artime, Rector Major of the Salesians of Don Bosco, has received honorary citizenship.

On 9 October 2022, Pope Francis in Rome in St. Peter’s Square said, “The Salesian brother Artemide Zatti, with his bicycle, was a living example of gratitude. Healed from tuberculosis, he dedicated his whole life to serving others, to caring for the sick with love and tenderness.”

One year after the great event, the Municipality of Boretto and the pastoral Unit of Boretto, Brescello, and Gualtieri, under the joyful direction of the parish priest Fr. Giancarlo Minotta, organized on 7 and 8 October, two days of events and initiatives. It brought together all the citizens, with the Mayors of Boretto, Matteo Benassi, and of Brescello, Carlo Fiumicino, recalling the presence of various members of the Salesian Family Groups, starting from the Provincial of the Lombardy-Emilian Province of Italy (ILE), Fr. Roberto Dal Molin, with all the Directors of the Province, and the Provincials of Our Lady of the Cenacle Province (ILS), Sister Elide Degiovanni, and Holy Family (ILO), Sister Stefania Saccuman.

Among the initiatives, a book created with the contribution of children from the primary schools of Boretto and Brescello, “Artemide Giocava a Campana”, the website, shows the permanent exhibit set up in the Basilica of San Marco, the conversation with Cardinal Artime, and the festive Eucharist presided over by him. There is also the “Color Zatti” walk, an itinerant catechesis in the places where Artemide was born in 1880, became Christian, and lived the experience of poverty which saw him as a laborer at an early age and subsequently led his family to emigrate to Bahía Blanca, in the province of Buenos Aires.

In presenting the seventeen panels of the exhibit “Artemide Zatti. Paradise for a bicycle,” the curator Fr. Erino Leoni, SDB, Vicar of the ILE Province, used all the parts of the bicycle – from the transmission chain to the handlebars, from the brake to the dynamo, up to the wheels – for a passionate explanation, between theology and spiritual life, which captured the attention of the community gathered in the basilica.

The Postulator General of the Salesian Congregation, Fr. Pierluigi Cameroni, biographer of Zatti, also spoke at the presentation meeting. He highlighted two aspects of Artemide’s holiness above all: his integral attention to the person and his being a great man of communion. With the coordination of Daniela Artoni, the exhibit was immediately successfully tested right after the conclusion of the first meeting on Saturday afternoon. Each panel is a provocation. The paintings do not follow a documentary structure, but rather the three actions of the most famous motto that St. Zatti gave by living it firsthand: “I believed, I promised, I healed.”

Once the guided tours were over, a second moment of edifying and informal listening took place in the basilica with Cardinal Artime, who entered into dialogue with the pastoral community. Responding to questions from some lay people, the Cardinal addressed a variety of topics in real life: school teaching, the changing oratory, oncological disease, volunteering, the relationship with children, with work colleagues, with new technologies. Among Fr. Ángel’s advice, was “Let us continue to practice ‘face to face’, the smiling presence, the culture of tenderness and kindness.”

In welcoming the authorities and the faithful to the Basilica of San Marco in Boretto, who arrived in procession from the oratory, accompanied by the G. and F. Medesani band for the Eucharistic celebration, presided over by the Cardinal, the parish priest Fr. Giancarlo described St. Artemis as “one of our saints, because he was born and raised here. He is your saint because in the Salesian reality he recognized the state of life to which God called him. A saint who is not exclusively anyone’s, but he belongs to everyone because he has chosen to belong only to God through the Church. A saint, therefore, not a perfect man, not an impeccable man, but a man aware of being saved and loved.”

In his homily, Cardinal Artime recalled the “simple and profound” reason for the celebrations of the Saint, “it’s not about putting a bit of incense. What is clear is that one of us, in flesh and blood, was an extraordinary person in living the faith, in following Jesus, in practicing the charity of life in a special way. And for this reason, the Church recognizes that his path is a path of holiness. God tells us, ‘he has made a beautiful journey of humanity and holiness. You too do the same.” Recounting his ‘privileged’ experience as Superior of the Province of Southern Argentina from 2009 to 2014, with the possibility of knowing well the reality of Viedma and the figure of Zatti, he said, “He does one simple thing: always being among the people, among the poorest and the sick in the hospital. (…) A profoundly community man, who won the hearts of the people, who went to visit families on his bicycle. We celebrate the sanctity of a simple man.” Concluding he encouraged the fellow citizens of Artemide, “Here I found so much sympathy, so much simplicity, so much sense of getting along well together. Don’t lose this.”

At the end of the Celebration, the central act of the weekend took place, motivated thus by the Mayor of Boretto, Matteo Benassi:

“The awarding of honorary citizenship to Cardinal Don Ángel Fernández Artime is intended to be a recognition of the Major Rector of the Salesians in continuity with his predecessors, always close to our community, starting with the late Fr. Juan Vecchi, also of Boretto origins. But it also wants to be a sign of participation and friendship towards the entire Salesian world. Citizenship of the Rector means that every Salesian who comes to Boretto will be considered a citizen, a friend, and a member of our community.” And again: “why does it make sense for a municipal administration to celebrate a saint? Why not clearly separate the areas, leaving the Church with the task of celebrating her saints? Because we need, even as young or adult citizens, to meet people who show us that it is possible to live in a meaningful way. They show us it is possible to work by combining competence and passion; that it is possible to welcome others and respect them; that it is possible to emigrate and integrate in the new context; that it is possible to face illness; that it is possible to lull dreams, see them fade and restart; that taking care is more important than healing; that the smile is a medicine; and that the wounds of the soul hurt more than those of the body. And Zatti was this”.

Source and Photos: SDB Province Lombardo Emiliana


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