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GC 27: Ringside Views & News - 1: PILGRIMAGE TO TURIN

By Fr. Jose Parappully
Rector Major with the Salesians of the post-novitiate training Centre of Nave (ILE) who performed for the Chapter members.
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Kolkata, Feb. 26. On 22 February, 2014, members of the General Chapter went on a three-day pilgrimage to Turin - the Italian city in which Don Bosco began his work and where he died.
We left in three buses from Rome, leaving the Generalate at 5 am. The 900 km between Rome and Turin was covered in 10 hours. On the way we passed Florence and Bologna - two major Italian cities.

We reached Turin a little before 3 pm. After checking into the hotel we were driven to Valsalice (translated Willow Brook) where Don Bosco's body was originally buried.

Although he died at Valdocco, the place where he spent all his priestly life, he was not allowed to be buried there, because of Municipality regulations. However, the City officials themselves suggested Valsalice, which had been a study centre for young Salesians for some years, as it was outside the city limits.

Originally the school was founded by the Christian Brothers for children of the nobility. When the religious orders were suppressed in Piedmont by Count Cavour, they had to leave.

For some time the school was taken care of by the diocesan priests. But they found it difficult. Finally Archbishop Gastaldi asked Don Bosco to take it over.
Don Bosco was hesitant to take up a school meant for the affluent. His Council also voted ''no.'' However, he finally accepted it because Gastaldi insisted. The relationship between Don Bosco and Gastaldi at the time was not cordial, and he did not want to make things worse for him.

Sometime later the Salesians in post novitiate formation were housed there. Some of the great Salesians like Versiglia, Prince Czartoryski and Alasonatti had lived there.

Don Bosco died on January 31, 1888. His body was kept for public veneration till Feb 2. That evening the body was taken in procession around the city. It is said there were about 5000 people in the procession.

However, city police calculated that there were around 100,000 people paying homage to him that day in various parts of the city. He could not be buried that day, however, as his grave at Valsalice had not been ready.

He was finally buried on February 4th at the top of a long flight of stairs at the entrance of the house at Valsalice at 5.30 pm.

(Fr. Julius Barberis, who had been the Novice Master General of the Congregation later revealed that  when he expressed his concerns to Don Bosco about the young Salesians in formation living alongside the rich students of the high school at Valsalice in September 1887, just a few months before his death,  Don Bosco had told him, pointing to the  to the very same spot that he would be there to watch over these young  Salesians!)

Don Bosco's body remained at Valsalice until 1927 when it was taken back to Valdocco and buried in the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians.

From Valsalice we went over to Valdocco, where Don Bosco began his work in 1841 and where he lived until his death in 1888.

In the evening we gathered for the Holy Eucharist in the magnificent Basilica of Mary Help of Christians that Don Bosco built in gratitude to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Eucharist was presided over by Fr. Pascual Chavez, the Rector Major, surrounded by all the General Council members.

Using the scripture readings given for the feast of the Chair of Peter that was celebrated that day, Fr. Chavez exhorted the Salesians to make Jesus of Nazareth the centre of their life, committing themselves totally to him, as did Peter in his confession at Caesarea Philippi.

A lavish dinner followed after which the Salesians in post-novitiate training at Turin entertained the members of the Chapter and other invited Guests with a lovely musical performance, based on the theme of the Chapter.

After the performance we returned to our hotel. It had been a long but exciting day!

- by Fr. Jose Parappully (INN)
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