Central and Eastern European countries will be well represented at Fratello, including several unexpected participants.
“We have been pleasantly surprised by requests from organisations which we were not expecting to hear from, or even from those that we did not know about beforehand. Take Jeanette, for example, who runs a charitable organisation providing meals, she was astonished when I told her about Fratello. She said, “It’s amazing, we have dreamed of going to Rome with our guys for months, but had no idea how to do it – what great timing!” Marie-Emmanuelle Javori, who is in charge of Fratello in Eastern Europe, has a whole host of stories to tell, each more joyful than the next; for example, the non-denominational group Munchner Tafel, created in Germany by evangelical Christians, had decided to send only three people to Rome before reconsidering, “We haven’t got anywhere near the resources to do it, but we decided to sign up 150 people to go,” its organisers explained to Marie-Emmanuelle. “There comes a time when you simply have to trust in God.” Evidently, this trust has paid off seeing as at the end of last week the budget for the 150 pilgrims had been almost entirely covered.
Although at the outset the organisers of Fratello decided to restrict it to just the Schengen Area, notably to avoid having to apply for visas for people who often find administrative tasks complicated and difficult, but here again they met with a number of surprises. News of the event spread by word of mouth much further afield than expected and requests came in from Ukraine, Croatia, and even from Russia. There has also been a lot of solidarity between the wealthy and less wealthy areas of Europe, as seen on Credofunding, the French Christian fundraising website, where a successful appeal was launched for 50 Slovakian volunteers. The money collected will mean these pilgrims, from the local St. Vincent de Paul organisation as well as the Inštitút Krista Veľkňaza, to sleep in a real bed when they come to Rome.
Marie-Emmanuelle is really looking forward to the pilgrimage, “I can’t wait to be in Rome meeting up with everyone again – and finally meeting those who I have only been able to speak to on the phone so far,” she says, smiling. “That’s also what Fratello is all about.”