WHO WAS DON ORESTE BENZI

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A tireless apostle of charity. A “crazy God” as Saint Francis. So Father Oreste Benzi was described , a priest from Rimini who fought many battles for the poor of this earth. His reputation for holiness was well known already before he got in the house of the Father. Many people testify to the humanity and spirituality that animated him and his continuous search for the will of God. At nine years after his death, it occurred in the night between the first and 2 November, the diocesan phase of the cause of beatification is going forward and there are many who hope that it would end soon.

Don Oreste was born September 7, 1925 in Sant’Andrea in Casale, a village in the municipality of San Clemente, Romagna’s village,  few kilometers from Rimini and the sea. The seventh of nine children of a humble working class family, he stands out for his great generosity and spirit of sacrifice by helping parents at home and in the field cultivation. As a child, during elementary school, he was fascinated by the presentation of the class teacher who speaks of three relevant human figures: the scientist, explorer and priest. On returning home he tells to his mother that he had chosen his own way: “Mom, I want to be a priest! “. From that day he will not change his mind and at eleven years he entered in the seminary.

At  twenty-four years he bocomes the priest who mishandles for souls, loving without measure, completely giving himself to others. He is also the spiritual father of the seminarians, chaplain of the sailors, promoter of many school camps until undertake what will be a real revolution: the founding of the Community of Pope John XXIII.

In the Sixties he begins to organize summer camps for disabled young people, a sign of contradiction and a scandal for those times. To the boys he proposes a new way of living the faith and togetherness it calls “friendly encounter with Christ”. When even he can not imagine God’s plan, around him a group of people is formed starting to make strong actions in favor of the latter with the slogan “where we are, there are also other; not us for them, but we are with them. ”

The first family houses were born to live with the poor, welcoming them into their homes, giving them a family to those who have lost it : abandoned children, teenagers in difficulty, disabled, marginalized, excluded. People of any age, culture, nationality and religious belief in emergency reception communities, therapeutic and social cooperatives formed a new people called to proclaim what he calls “the society of free“: a church, a family, a company that feels the sense of belonging and for this it chooses  to put their own lives with those who have no voice, and perhaps they almost apologize to exist.

Don Oreste goes through the streets of the oppressed, during night he goes to free the girls exploited by prostitution, he operates because children are welcomed into the family and not in institutions, he wants to defend the weak in any situation, from children in prenatal to persecuted by sects. In this period – during the celebration of All Saints and All Souls – he went to pray in cemeteries on the graves of the victims of abortion children he called innocent martyrs of  men’ indifference and cruelty.

He left a big heritage : a community – currently present in 38 countries – that is working under two aspects that make it unique in the immense wealth of experience born in the Catholic Church. The first is to share with the life of the poor: you live with them, and not only provides to theis support. The second is the commitment to the removal of the causes that create marginalization,  build a society in which God’s justice reigns.

The radical reading of the Gospel of Don Oreste and his work are a strong and healthy challenge for every Christian. And all those who are afraid to take that important step of charity towards others they can take heart from a paradoxical phrase that Father Oreste used to say: “Good things before you do it and then you think it.” An exhortation to learn to develop without  many human calculations and rational reasoning, the intelligence of love, force able to move mountains.

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