During his institutional visit to Brussels, Fr. Mendes met with several representatives of the European Institutions, including Ambassador Nicola Bellomo, Maria Lamin and Rok Kozelj of the European External Action Service (EEAS), Vytaute Ezerskiene and Laroche of the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA), Claire Herrmann (DG EAC), Alicia Viertmann and Eleonora Martinello (DG INTPA) of the European Commission.
During the same occasion, Fr. Gildasio also met with Alfredo Garmedia, Beatrice Bellet and Estela Arkarazo, Leaders of the SAAM pilot project, which promotes mobility among students and vocational training experts between 16 African countries and 8 European Union member countries. The meeting enabled a dialogue on education as a priority for not only the integral development of young people but of more just societies, highlighting the commitment of Salesians in the field, especially in Europe and Africa.
During his speech, Fr. Mendes brought greetings from the Rector Major, Fr. Ángel Fernández Artime, and from the General Counselor for Youth Ministry and President of "Don Bosco International" (DBI), Fr. Miguel Ángel García Morcuende, reaffirming the Congregation's commitment to collaborate closely with the European Union to give a concrete response to young people’s needs and build new prospects for life and work for them.
Fr. Mendes took the opportunity to emphasize that Salesian education represents an essential contribution to the formation of young people, migrants, refugees, gypsies, and all young people present in Salesian realities worldwide, so that through education they may be true protagonists in building a fairer, more fraternal and sustainable society. Also, recalling Pope Francis' trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo, the General Councilor for Social Communication underscored that on Don Bosco's feast day, everyone is invited to be ambassadors of peace and firmly affirmed that the seed of good wins over the virus of war. He thus urged everyone to work together to be the leaven in the human family, as the Strenna 2023 announces.
Finally, he highlighted the important role of DBI in building collaborative policies and facilitating projects for the poorest in Europe and other content, including Africa.
The morning ended with a bilateral meeting with the Secretary General of the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Union (COMECE), Fr. Manuel Barrios Prieto, with whom Fr. Mendes exchanged examples of Salesian good practices and the new priorities on which the Congregation is focusing its work.
In the afternoon, at the Chapel for Europe in Brussels, there was a launch event for the publication "From malaise to rebirth," a research paper by Caritas Europe and Don Bosco International on the social and professional future of young people in post-Covid Europe.
In addition to Fr. Mendes, speakers at the event included: Hon. Patrizia Toia (S&D) and Hon. Miriam Lexmann (EPP) as Members of the European Parliament, Joao Santos of the European Commission (DG EMPL), Renato Cursi (Director General of Salesians for the Social), Shannon Pfohman (Director for Policy and Advocacy at Caritas Europe), and Maria Nyman (Secretary General of Caritas Europe). The research findings highlighted the current educational challenges of not only vocational training, but also the accessibility of the digital world and mobility for young people, who are increasingly at risk of poverty and social marginalization.
The event was followed by the celebration of the Eucharist for the Feast of Don Bosco, which was animated by the GPS Trio group and was presided over by Fr. Mendes and concelebrated by Fr. Wilfried Wambeke, current Provincial of Belgium North and Holland (BEN), Fr. Bart Decancq, appointed Provincial, Fr. Koen Timmermans, Economer for the BEN Province, and Fr. Andrè Van Der Sloot, director of the Salesian community of Woluwe-Saint-Lambert, of Brussels).
The participation of the Salesian Family was numerous, making the celebration of Don Bosco's feast joyful and filled with enthusiasm.
DBI General Secretary