Visit to a prisoner
His Parisian friends and his lawyer had invited me to visit
him in prison in Viterbo, in the north of Rome. His name is Paolo
Persichetti. I had defended him with Abbé Pierre in 1995
at a memorable press conference at the House of Human Rights
while he was on a hunger strike at the Sante jail in Paris.
Paolo was living in Paris and was teaching at the University.
Then, unexpectedly, he was arrested and extradited to Italy.
After I had obtained the authorisation to visit him, I
left for Rome. His friends had offered the ticket for the trip
In Rome, where it was oppressively hot at this time of the summer,
I first went to visit his mother: Maria, a fine woman, who was
visiting her son in prison once a week.
I then took the train to go to Viterbo. A train making many stops:
1 hour and a half for 80 km (50 M).
In the economy class where I was, a family of gypsies entered
the compartment and since then their three boys left no peace
to the other travelers. The eldest of the boys proudly had the
same surname as myself: " Giacomo ". I guessed we were
all going to the same place: the prison of Mammagialla. The family
had left their home at 5 am and would return only at 6 pm. A
long journey for just an hour of visit!
In Viterbo, I had to find a car to drive me to the prison that
was outside of the city. Finally, I arrived in a deserted area
where the great walls of the prison suddenly appeared.
After going through the usual procedures, I entered in the
large visiting room: six tables were waiting, one for each prisoner.
Paolo arrived first walking quickly. He was smiling and
visibly happy. He did not look his 42 years of age. I found him
in a better shape than myself.
At a certain point, I talked to him about his mother. His eyes
clouded with tears.
The voices were ringing out in the visiting room which made listening
difficult. My gypsy friends were speaking the loudest!
A policeman came over to tell me my time was up.
I took a taxi with a woman who had come to visit a friend
in prison. She asked me: " is the prisoner a member of your
family? A friend? " " No, I replied, out of solidarity
". " Then, you did right " she said.
The next morning, Maria was there to drive me to the airport.
- A wedding by the river
Brian and Linda had been living together for many years. They
have decided to get married and have asked me to bless their
- A wedding by the river, in the middle of nature. Both
of them were aware it is their own celebration and they had prepared
carefully every detail of the ceremony.
The scene had a touch of magic. The ceremony was held in the
fading light of the evening, at the sound of music while the
trees were sheltering us of their long shadows. The river was
- The ambiance was very friendly and every body seemed at
ease. There was no need for a welcome committee. Nature belongs
to every body.
The bride and groom made their arrival accompanied by their children.
They were the first to speak to welcome their guests, emphasizing
the importance of the symbols: the water, the light, the earth
and the spiritual nature of their wedding.
The children, one after the other came forward to say without
notes the significance of the desires composing the celebration:
The desire of the bird, is the heaven,
The desire of the hand, is to caress,
The desire of the ear, is the music,
The desire of the eyes, is a rainbow,
The desire of the lips, is a kiss,
The desire of the faith, is the infinity
The desire of the being, is God.
When a desire is born, then the celebration can begin
The tone was given to the celebration. There was no need for
the ritual clothes or the rites. Words and gestures followed
on from each other and had their significance.
The Gospel was going through a revival with this gathering of
people who were no longer churchgoers.
A meeting in presence of
The Katholikentag, the great gathering of the German Catholics,
was held in Ulm in Baden-Württemberg. I was delighted to
be a speaker next to Eugen Drewermann for the opening conference
attended by a great number of people of which a few bishops.
We spoke in front of this assembly for two hours and a
The theme of the conference was: " the future of the clergy
". I would have preferred another theme more appropriate
for the crowd that was there.
Eugen Drewermann seemed happy and relaxed.
I started off by thanking the organizers of the Katholikentag
to have invited both of us to speak. I paid tribute to this institution
for taking the liberty of inviting us for this occasion. Such
liberty would not have been possible in France.
It was a good meeting. We did not try to improve the structures
but rather to suggest new ways for the future.