I am in Rome these days invited by the community of St Egidio who every year gather more 100 bishops at the beginning of February. It is called: "Christians and Shepherds for tomorrow's Church". Though most of us are Catholic bishops, there are also representatives from other Christian denominations. Most of us are bishops in Africa and this gives us a rare opportunity to meet and know each other.
The them of this year was: "The joy of the Gospel", following Pope Francis' exhortation on the proclamation of the Gospel in today's world.
Three elements characterise the spirit of St Egidio: love for God's word, friendship with the poor, work for peace.
Reflecting on the time we spent together (from Tuesday evening to Saturday evening) I found very interesting elements of ongoing formation:
1. There is time for reflection. We were addressed by Andrea Riccardi (founder of St Egidio) on "The surprise of Pope Francis", bishop A. Spreafico on "the privilege place of the poor among God's people", Patrizia Minciacchi on the elderly people, bishop M. Zuppi on "the challenge of peace".
2. There is plenty of space for sharing after each theme. This gives us an opportunity to know better the different realities in which we serve. The bishop of Aleppo spoke about the situation in Siria, the archbishop of Jos opened our eyes to the different conflicts in Nigeria...
3. Every evening we join the people of Rome for evening prayer at the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere.
4. Reflection, sharing, prayer and... service to the poor. Tuesday evening we joined them as they distribute food to the people sleeping in the streets of Rome. Friday afternoon we were divided in groups to visit the "Regina Coeli" prison, serve the tables at the restaurant for the poor (where more than a thousand people go three times' a week), visit the sick and the elderly.