By Matters India Reporter
Rome, April 21, 2019: Consolata Sister Eugenia Bonetti, who wrote the Way of the Cross to pray at Rome’s Colosseum on Good Friday, says it helped highlight sorrows of women, youth and those without hope.
“I found it as an opportunity to bring to the Colosseum, the sorrows of many women, young, without hope, without face, used and thrown out,” she told media persons at the Vatican.
Pope Francis had asked the 80-year-old Italian nun, who has been on the frontlines in the fight against human trafficking, to write this year’s Way of the Cross meditations.
Sister Bonetti prepared the texts for the evening service on April 19, Good Friday, at Rome’s Colosseum.
She started her anti-trafficking ministry in 1993 when she found women standing on the roadsides waiting for clients in Kenya, Africa. She worked for 20 years in Africa.
When she returned to her hometown Turin, Italy, she was shocked to find young African girls working as prostitutes.
The turning point came when one of these girls, Maria, who was sick, turned up in the center where she worked asking for help.
“As I was getting ready to go for Mass and I asked her to follow me. In the streets of Torino it did not go unnoticed: a nun and a prostitute under the same umbrella,” she recalled.
It was an event that profoundly changed Sister Bonetti’s life and challenged all her ideas about religious ministry and mission.
“Maria became my catechist, helping me understand the complex routes by which so many women and girls end up trafficked from places across the globe, to be bought and sold, beaten and raped and end up working the streets of our so-called civilized countries.”
To prepare herself for the new mission, she studied in a London university at the age of 60, returned to her country and appealed to nuns: “Open the doors of convents to welcome the women who had ended up in the hands of the brigands.”
Sister Bonetti is the sixth women to write the Way of the Cross for Good Friday at Colosseum. The first was a Benedictine nun Mother Anna Canopi in 1993. Two years later in 1995 John Paul II chose Minke de Vries, a woman from a Protestant Church.
Requested by Pope Benedict XVI, an Augustinian Sister Maria Rita Piccone wrote the Way of the Cross in 2011. A couple Danilo and Anna Maria Zanzucchi wrote the Way of the Cross in 2012. In 2017 Pope Francis entrusted this task to a French Bible Scholar Anna Marie Pelletier.
Sister Bonetti’s meditation for the ninth station reveals the agony with which she works: “Lord, you fell a third time, exhausted and humiliated, beneath the weight of your cross. Like all those girls forced onto the streets by groups of traffickers in human slavery. Like you, they cannot hold up under the exhaustion and humiliation of seeing their young bodies manipulated, abused and ruined, together with their hope and dreams. Those young women feel divided in two: sought out and used, while at the same time rejected and condemned by a society that conveniently ignores this kind of exploitation, the fruit of its throwaway culture. On one of many nights spent on the streets of Rome, I looked for a young woman recently arrived in Italy. Not seeing her in her group, I kept calling out her name: “Mercy!” In the darkness, I caught sight of her curled up and half asleep at the edge of the street. When she heard me calling, she awoke and said she couldn’t go on. “I can’t take it anymore”, she kept repeating. I thought of her mother. If she knew what had happened to her daughter, she would burst into tears.
She wrote for the 5th Station:
“Simon of Cyrene, out of obligation, came to your aid. Where are the new Cyreneans of the third millennium? Where do we find them today? I think of the experience of a group of religious women of different nationalities, places of origin and communities with whom, for more than seventeen years, every Saturday, we visit a center for undocumented immigrant women. Women, often young, anxiously waiting to know their fate, whether it be expulsion or the chance to remain. How much suffering we see, yet at the same time how much joy when these women find Sisters from their own country, who speak their language, dry their tears, share moments of prayer and celebration, and make easier the long months spent behind iron bars and on cement pavements.”
According to Sister Bonita, some 27 million victims of a global trafficking industry make turnover of around 32 billion dollars a year.
For the past two decades, she has led the Catholic Church’s efforts to combat human trafficking, to break the chains of the modern form of slavery and to help trafficked women regain a sense of hope and dignity in their shattered lives.
The nun is the chairperson of the ‘Slaves No More,” founded on December 29, 2012, a non-profit organization. He also coordinates the Italian Religious Superiors’ Counter-trafficking Office for Women and Children. Her network extends to 30 countries and works in the prevention, rehabilitation, and protection of the victims and their families as well as the repatriation and reintegration of the victims back in their homeland.