Dramatic exit of a priest from Afghanistan

Fr. Scalese and five Sisters of Charity arrived in Rome on the 25th. He said they had tried to leave days before, without success.

Newsroom (01/09/2021 08:30, Gaudium Press) Fr Giovanni Scalese’s departure from Afghanistan was not that of someone returning from a leisure trip, on the contrary.

The priest arrived at Rome’s Fiumicino airport on 25 August with five Missionaries of Charity and some children. The Barnabite priest (of the regular clergy of St Paul) was superior of the mission of the Catholic Church in that country, and the leader of the only Catholic parish, Our Lady of Divine Providence, which was located in the chapel of the Italian embassy.

“We continue praying for Afghanistan,” the priest said in an interview with SIR (the news agency of the Italian Bishops’ Conference) a day after his arrival. “We cannot abandon this country and its suffering people.”

“Our centre is no longer open, it is closed and we are destroyed,” one of the missionaries of charity who came with the priest, from Madagascar, told La Repubblica. She was referring to the orphanage and the care centre for the disabled that they had run in Kabul for several years. Although they were able to take 14 children to Italy, many had to stay there. “It is done, there is no hope in Kabul,” she declared disconsolately.

If they had wanted to, they could have harmed them

But how were the days from the Taliban takeover of Kabul to the departure of the priest and the sisters for Italy? Despite having “felt worried”, Fr Scalese said he had a certain sense of security inside the Italian embassy.

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“Outside the gates of our embassy, there were Taliban (fighters) who, if they wanted to harm us, could have done so. But absolutely nothing happened,” he recalled. “I was more concerned about the Missionaries of Charity who stayed in their homes and were therefore more exposed and scared,” the Italian priest said.

The priest also recounted that they had tried to leave Afghanistan several days before their arrival in Rome, but had to return from the airport because “the situation was deteriorating”.

“We only managed to get through the entrance the other night. It was not easy to get through so many people and the enormous tension,” he said.

“The Taliban, among other things, issued a warning that they would close the roads from the airport to Afghans, allowing only foreigners to pass through,” Fr Scalese added. “As soon as we arrived, they boarded us on a military flight which, after a stopover in Kuwait, arrived in Rome.”

Fr Scalese said he did not expect “such a sudden and abrupt conclusion” to the situation in Afghanistan. “We all hoped for a more negotiated conclusion”, towards “a transitional or national unity government”.

Instead, “in a few days, everything collapsed: government, army, police forces. The Taliban did not fight to take power, they simply took control. It was a good thing partly because they avoided a big bloodbath. There have been deaths, but it’s not a civil war.”

Via Catholic News Service.


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