Tunisia – Salesians at the time of lockdown

21 May 2020

(ANS - Manouba) - Tunisia too, like almost every countries across the globe, has lived and still partially lives the circumstance of confinement. The Tunisian government had the intuition to close everything even before the disease manifested itself in a striking way, playing on the "prevention" of contagion; thus, it acted upon the very first cases that arrived in early March, imported from Italy. In Tunisia, as elsewhere, all school, educational, sports and religious activities, both of the mosques and of the few Catholic churches, have been suspended since 14 March until further notice.

“We Salesians, five confreres, were therefore confined to the two schools, three in Manouba and two in Tunis,” says Fr Domenico Paternò, SDB, Director of Manouba. “We reacted first of all by trying to ensure online teaching through our teachers. It's not easy, but there has been a good response, even if not all students are connected.”

The oratory continued to follow the animators. With them, training continued on Don Bosco's Preventive System, thanks to the young Patrick Kizembe and Fr Bashir Souccar, a Syrian Salesian in Manuoba since last September, who produced training sessions in Arabic for both animators and teachers. For the two parishes entrusted to the Salesians, the spiritual link continued through the available communications.

Fr Faustino García Peña, for the parish of Hammamet, edited the commentary on the Gospel every week and a weekly update letter, sending everything to the emails of Italian and European parishioners. A Facebook page has also been opened for the parish of Tunis, named Paroisse Sainte Jeanne D'Arc Tunis.  Mass is transmitted from the Salesian chapel of Manouba: every Saturday at 18:30 (Tunisian time) in Italian, and Sunday at 10 am in French.

The two schools are keeping in touch with the students' families to ensure financial support for the two schools, which interrupted didactic activities on 12 March, and the school year has now been declared closed.

“For the support of the needy,” continues Fr Paternò, “the Tunisian Church has concentrated aid on the diocesan Caritas, and there we have directed those who were in need, while some priests were authorized to go to some collection points of those who needed food. Furthermore, we all contributed with prayer.”

The COVID-19 pandemic in Tunisia has so far caused 1,045 infected people and 47 victims. From 4 May, and then again on Monday, 18 May, the Tunisian authorities have loosened the confinement measures since 4 May, with a first phase of gradual reopening.

The Salesians, for their part, conclude: “We hope for things go well, and that the Risen Lord will give us the opportunity to return to serve our recipients.”


ANS - “Agenzia iNfo Salesiana” is a on-line almost daily publication, the communication agency of the Salesian Congregation enrolled in the Press Register of the Tibunal of Rome as n 153/2007.

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