Bishop Angelo Moreschi, the apostolic vicar of Gambella, has lived and ministered in Ethiopia for 30 years, feeding the hungry and working for peace.
He is known as “Abba Angelo” to the locals, who all recognize him from far off and shout his name as he passes.
“In Ethiopia I really understood the Gospel,” Bishop Moreschi told Aid to the Church in Need.
Much of the Gambella region is still wild, with lions and man-eating crocodiles. The extremely hot climate produces violent storms, one of which blew an entire simply-constructed chapel nearly half a mile away from its land.
Hunger is a continuing problem in Ethiopia, especially in the dry season. Children’s hair turns light from malnutrition and many die from disease in their weakened state. Emaciated nursing women sometimes cannot produce enough milk to breastfeed their children.
The children themselves are dedicated to their faith. They pray when the bishop blesses them and they strive to listen to a catechist reading a well-used children’s Bible from Aid to the Church in Need.
Bishop Moreschi brings special nourishing biscuits for the children on his visits to villages. The native of Brescia, Italy will celebrate his 60th birthday on June 13 after spending half his life in the country. His health is poor, but he has left an impression: some children at Gambella’s apostolic vicariate now call every white person “Abba Angelo.”
The Ethiopian people welcome the Catholic Church for bringing good water, flour mills, kindergartens and agricultural assistance.
The Church is also trying to bring peace amid recurring bloody feuds. There are special tensions between the tribes of farmers and the tribes of herdsmen, who compete over the same land.
“It’s the conflict between Cain and Abel that we know from the Bible,” Bishop Moreschi said.
Tensions in the region are potentially explosive. Rebels recently shot eight farm workers from other areas and a Pakistani who is a big landowner was murdered.
Rich foreigners are buying up expanses of land as large as some European countries and foreign investors seemingly arrive on every plane. But most of the natives have no land.
“Imagine that half of Germany were sold to Indians and Pakistanis,” the bishop told Aid to the Church in Need.
The land purchases deprive the natives of their basis for life. More suffer from hunger, herdsmen lose pastureland, and forests are destroyed while hate and unrest increase.
The conflict between Sudan and the newly independent South Sudan has also caused an influx of refugees and has increased violence in the border area.
One native priest suggested to the bishop that the locals will kill all foreigners and that the bishop and the foreign priests should be concerned.
“Nonsense, the people know us here! You saw how they waved to us!” the bishop responded.