Brother Alois Loeser, Prior of the Taizé community 

Brother Alois and the World missionaries special “thanks”

From France to Syria, from Mongolia to Nigeria, from Brazil to Benin to the Solomon Islands: the Te Deum of the Church for the past year  

On 31 December, the Pontiff, together with the whole Church, celebrate the first vespers of the solemnity of Mary Most Holy Mother of God and raise their hymns of praise to the Lord, the Te Deum. 

This year, Vatican Insider has gathered the thanksgiving messages to the Lord of seven people coming from the five continents: Ibrahim Alsabagh, Episcopal Vicar of Aleppo (Syria), Luciano Capelli, Bishop of the Diocese of Gizo (Solomon Islands), Francesca Federigi, Poor Clares in Ijebu-Ode (Nigeria), Alois Loeser, Prior of the Taizé community (France), Giorgio Marengo missionary in Arvaiheer (Mongolia), Fiorenzo Pri.  

Their personal Te Deum reveals the Church’s hospitable womb in which those who are longing for the tender and merciful touch of God and a liberation from evil, can find shelter and restart their lives anew. These accounts of thanksgiving show what keeps all human beings alive: stories of custody, caregiving and reliable dedication that take place every day from one end of the world to the other, sometimes with great sacrifices. Love and good bonds that are daily charms: though mediatically invisible, they are decisive for our own existence. The Lord dwells in those gestures and bonds. These things out of love mend the world, making it a better and more beautiful place, making it a home where it is more beautiful for everyone to live in. Things done out of love – which prevent the world from drowning, draw the secret and indestructible plot of history. The generation of these daily miracles of agape start in the very womb of God.  
France: 63-year-old Brother Alois Loeser, prior to the international ecumenical community of Taizé. 
 At the end of this year, with my brothers and sisters, I thank God for the thousands of young people who have come to participate, week after week, in the international meetings on our Taizé hill. When every evening, after prayer, I remain in the church to listen to those who want to share a question, a suffering, a joy, I measure the depth of their search: the search for God, the search for a more intense interior prayer, a commitment to the service of the most vulnerable. These young people come from all over Europe and want to participate in the construction of a more united continent. They want to live a sharing experience with peers from other countries. Young people from all over the world come to Taizé: we have welcomed, among others, among others, Arab Christians, Orthodox Copts from Egypt, Catholics and Orthodox from Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine. Their presence encourages us to pray for peace in that region.  
I thank God for the young people I met this year during the celebrations in Riga, Brussels, Tallinn, Paris and Birmingham, and for those I met both during the meeting hosted by the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt and during the events organized for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in Wittenberg, Geneva and Lausanne. Referring to the example of Pope Francis who in Lund, Sweden, said, "we are very thankful for the spiritual and theological gifts received through the Reformation", we - among separated Christians - have sought out how to rejoice in the gifts of others. 
I thank God for the young refugees from Afghanistan, Sudan, Eritrea, Syria and Iraq we have been welcoming in Taizé for the past two years. It is as if Christ had invited us to overcome our fears and prejudices; as if, through their presence, he told us, "I have died for them too, whether they are Christians or not. You can become their friend.” I recently went to Sudan and South Sudan, where I met some of their families. The personal encounter - when we hear the cry of a wounded human being, when we look into their eyes and touch those who suffer - makes us discover the dignity of the other and allows us to receive what the poorest transmit. They reveal our personal vulnerability to us: making us more humane. And paradoxically, joy is given: it is perhaps only a small spark, but what we share with the poorest, is real joy. 
Benin: 71-year-old Friar Fiorenzo Priuli, doctor of the Hospitaller Order of Saint John of God in the Saint Jean de Dieu Hospital of Tanguity.  
As my forty-eighth year of mission in this corner of Africa comes to an end, how can we not praise the Lord for having protected me from so many dangers and for having given me the joy of collaborating with Him in the marvelous work of giving life and reviving existences battered by evil and suffering? If I had the opportunity to go back and ask the Lord for a grace for my life, I would not be able to ask him as much as he gave me. During the past year we have managed to save hundreds of lives: I would like to mention the dozens and dozens of very young women suffering from the obstetric fistulae we have cured. This is a horrible disease that reserves a humiliating ordeal: it arises after a difficult childbirth during which the girl (who, following tradition, gives birth in a hut assisted by an elderly person) has pushed for 6-7 days: in the end, in giving birth to the child, by now lifeless, a part of the bladder is detached. From that moment on, the girl will live dripping urine continuously. There are thousands of young people who suffer from this, not only in Benin but also in other African countries. They lead a life of painful isolation: they are often repudiated by husbands, distanced from families and forced to live on the edge of villages. When, after surgery, they heal their joy is uncontainable. And very moving. I thank the Lord for helping me to find all that is necessary to carry out these operations, making our hospital a point of reference also for the treatment of this disease. Over the years many friends (Italians, but not only) have supported us, allowing us to offer qualified assistance to an increasing number of patients: in 1970, when the hospital was founded, there were 82 beds, today they are 415. Every year we have 18,000/20,000 new patients (of which 5,000 are children, many of them affected by malnutrition). Then there are specialists who, on holiday days, come here periodically from Europe and stay several days to carry out particularly demanding interventions and train the local medical staff. I am deeply grateful to the Lord for all these friends who have helped us in various ways: they are a blessing. When the first fatebenefratelli arrived in Benin, they were three; then they became seven, all white. Year after year, the seed of this charism has borne fruit and today we have 59 African confreres: it is another great gift of the Lord, who consoles me and whom I thank.  

Solomon Islands: 70-year-old Father Luciano Capelli, Salesian, bishop of the diocese of Giz
As the end of the year approaches, I wish to thank God for the gift of the call to serve him and for having succeeded in overcoming an intervention that I recently underwent due to a tumor diagnosed just in time. About 120,000 people live in the territory of my diocese, mostly Methodist: the Catholics are 15% and live in a hundred small villages scattered on about forty islands that in many cases are not reached by any means of transport so that I had to learn to fly an ultra-light seaplane in order to be able to reach more quickly and frequently the different parishes. They call me "the flying bishop". Another great gift, of which I will never tire of giving thanks to the Lord, is the Amis group (Friends Solomon Islands Mission), generous Italian volunteers who help me and who, for years, have been coming in large numbers on these islands for a few weeks a year, doing whatever they can to help out the population. Their friendship is precious and their laboriousness admirable. When I arrived in this diocese in 2007, Solomon Islands had just been hit by the earthquake and tsunami: with the help of the Amis friends, it was possible not only to rebuild the destroyed buildings (among them the cathedral), but also to build seven schools, six churches and two hospitals. We have also been able to buy two small ships that allow patients to be transported to hospitals and have everything people need to live in dignity, delivered on a regular basis. There are only fourteen priests (two diocesans, twelve from Asian dioceses), but there are many lay people who collaborate with us and who, animated by deep faith, commit themselves with praiseworthy dedication by involving the faithful in the various activities that are organized: they are a gift from Heaven. 
Finally, I would like to express my thanks to the Lord for the Jubilee of Mercy: during that year, since many people had no way to reach the cathedral, I brought the Holy Door to the various islands - aboard a boat - during that year: it was an unforgettable experience of conversion of which we begin to see the first fruits.  

Mongolia: Father Giorgio Marengo, 43 years old, missionary of the Consolata, parish priest in Arvaiheer  
That of praise is the most present dimension in the prayers of our people. The intercessions in the Mass begin mostly with words such as "I thank You Lord for this splendid day that you have given us again today" or "Thank you, Lord, because even today you have made me rise in time to come and listen to Your Word and receive the Eucharistic bread". And maybe that "splendid day" is one of those days with 30 degrees below zero temperature, and with the wind blowing opposite while walking towards our chapel (which is a Mongolian tent, the “ger”). This praise is a continuous provocation to our (little) faith. What I would like to thank the Lord for, is precisely the gift of genuine and rock-solid faith of the people who welcomed us here in Arvaiheer, a place 430 km from the capital Ulaanbaatar. The small community is made up of 28 baptized adults who have come to faith in these ten years of missionary presence on the territory. Now, little by little, they are also beginning to ask for baptism for their children and grandchildren: this is how catechesis began for young people. Four ladies have made themselves available to contribute to the formation of catechumens: they are our first catechists. We have a general program, elaborated by the local apostolic prefecture, but we try to be flexible to meet the different situations, which often require personalized paths.  
I wish to praise the Lord for this miracle of faith that blossoms and grows despite the many limitations of us missionaries (we are three, two sisters and one priest), always inadequate and yet continually used by Grace so that people who live without having any contact with the Church may know Christ and may follow Him. This is what fills me with amazement and gratitude. It is, after all, the gift of mission, which demands from us a continuous conversion, a daily refocusing on the Lord who sends and touches hearts, as we immerse ourselves in this unique cultural world, which must be loved and known in depth. The mystery of Christmas reminds us of this: if God chose to take on our poor humanity, it means that He wanted to submit Himself to the laws of time and space, of human becoming, in order to bring everything and everyone back to the Father. For us, missionaries ad gentes this is the theological principle of our penetrating deeper and deeper into the place where we are sent, falling to earth and dying like a seed so that in this sinking into the ground the miracle of the encounter with Christ may take place. And the miracle happens before our eyes by looking at the face of those who pray in our ger-chapel: for this we sing our Te Deum .  
Brazil: Father Nello Ruffaldi, 75 years old, missionary of the Soul (Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions) in Oiapoque  
As happens every year, even at the end of this 2017 I have many reasons to thank the Lord. I have been a priest for 50 years and for 46 years I have been living in Brazil among the Indios, especially among the peoples of Karipuna, Palikur, Galibi Marworno and Galibi Kalina. 2017 was a difficult year for all indigenous peoples as the government adopted a policy contrary to their interests. The Constitution, which came into force in 1988, guarantees both the right to live according to their culture and the rights on traditionally occupied land. This is undoubtedly an unprecedented fact in the history of Brazil. For some time now, large landowners, mining industries, monoculture producers have been dissatisfied and recently, unfortunately, they have decided to organize a massive campaign to amend the Constitution so that large companies can take possession of the wealth of indigenous peoples.  
Why, then, do I thank the Lord? I do so because the Indians have not given up: they have organized themselves nationally to claim their rights; they believe in the power of prayer, they know that they have God at their side and go forward without fear. And until today the efforts of those who avidly crave their lands have been unsuccessful. As missionaries we believe that God always remains at the side of the little ones and that our task is to sow hope, announcing and proclaiming the Good News, as the Book of the prophet Isaiah tell us:" The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners" (61,1).  
I am grateful to the Lord for living the mission among the Indios allows us to be evangelized by them. Indigenous cultures are much more in tune with the Gospel than our so-called Christian society. In fact, they invite fraternity and the sharing of goods so much so that there are no rich and poor in these small communities. The land - to be respected and loved - is considered a mother and not a commodity; the exercise of authority is considered a service. At present, the Indios have increasingly frequent contacts with Brazilian society and this results in changes that endanger the preservation of their cultural heritage. I therefore want to thank the Lord for the many of them who - sustained by the strength of the Gospel - remain firm in the values received from their ancestors.  

Syria: Friar Ibrahim Alsabagh, Franciscan, 46 years old, parish priest of the church of St. Francis of Aleppo and Episcopal Vicar. 
First of all, I want to thank the Lord for the peace agreement reached on 22 December 2016 between the regular army and armed groups: since then we have been able to live in peace, no more missiles have fallen on houses, schools, hospitals and sites of worship. After years of war, it seemed to us a miracle.  

I thank God both for the prayers and interventions of Pope Francis in favor of Syria and for the bishops and priests who have worked for us in many ways: in their actions we have grasped the tenderness of God towards us. My gratitude also goes to the children around the world who, since December 5, 2016, have accepted the invitation to pray for peace, every first Sunday of the month, together with the children of Aleppo. Another great gift that we have received and for which I am grateful to God is the help that we have received from Christians all over the world and from non-believers: they have had compassion for us and have shown us affection and closeness by sending us substantial aid through which it has been possible to give help to the people during the war and in this time of peace. Since the weapons have gone silent - with the many generous volunteers who support us in our assistance work - we have repaired over 800 houses, helped more than 380 young people to set up a small business and dozens of families to meet the needs of reconstruction. We have launched forty projects: for example, we provide financial support to 1,116 young married couples since 2010 and to eighty engaged couples who wish to get married and build a family.  
I praise the Lord for all those who continued to live in Aleppo during the war. I am thinking of many priests, religious men and women who - sharing with the faithful the hunger, thirst, fear and daily risk of dying - have done their best: they have taken care of the needs of all and have sown hope, listening and consoling wounded hearts. Together with them, doctors, nurses, professionals and craftsmen remained her, all people who generously made their skills available to those in need. Many Christian faithful have also decided not to leave the city, animated by the conviction that the Lord wanted them right here, as bridges of peace between the conflicting factions.  
Finally, I thank the Lord who gave me the courage to come here to Aleppo three years ago: he guided me, pointing out day after day the way forward, without allowing me to feel confused. I was able to be an instrument of His love, His tenderness, His consolation: I thank Him with all my heart for this.  

Nigeria: Sister Francesca Federici, 71 years old, Clarisse of the monastery of St. Clare of Ijebu-Ode.
At the end of this year I give thanks to the Lord for the great things he accomplished in my life, in our life. All too often we only observe and remember problems and fatigue and do not see the beauty hidden in everyday life. If there is one thing you learn in Africa, it is the ability to thank for poor living conditions do not allow you to take anything for granted. 
I thank God for the generosity of my community in Ijebu-Ode, which, although poor in means and without the guarantee of any material help, with an act of faith and abandonment, accepted the invitation of the bishop of Bomadi and is willing to build a monastery in a very poor diocese on the delta of the Niger River. In February, together with three sisters, I left for Ogriagbene, a tiny fishing village on the coast of Niger, where everything was missing. The misery is great: there are only the beauty of nature created by the Lord, the goodness of the inhabitants and the joy of the children swimming in the river, playing in the sand, eating a small piece of bread or polenta, and are happy. It is a village surrounded by fertile land and a fish river. Unfortunately, it also has oil. I say unfortunately because it causes heavy pollution and has not brought any benefit to the local population living in a state of total abandonment. Those who attempted to claim their rights on the land have been killed and in the village resignation and passivity reign. And yet, despite this climate of sadness, we have been welcomed with generosity and benevolence: many have wanted to share with us their problems and the little they possess. Sometime after our arrival, some women, having seen us working in the small garden we had made, asked us to learn and now have their own garden. It seemed to me a small but important sign of enterprise and renewed vitality. I give thanks to God for these new friends, simple and humble, who have given us confidence, and for all those in the world who are generously supporting the building of this new monastery. I pray to the Lord to continue to give the joy of communion and witness to my community, allowing it to overcome the many difficulties that always accompany a new project.