Mass at the Catacombs

I haven’t yet had a chance to mention that I had the opportunity to go to Rome for five days during the First Assembly of the Synod.

Perhaps one of the best things we were able to do was to host a Mass at the Domitilla Catacombs on Saturday 21 October to celebrate the memory of the martyred Blessed Enrique Angelelli and Jose Serapio (Pepe) Palacio, the co-founders of the YCW in the Diocese of Cordoba, Argentina. They were also killed by the military during Argentina’s Dirty War in 1975 and 1976. As a result, Amalia, Pepe’s wife, also a former YCW leader, was left alone to raise their children.

Enrique Angelelli was also one of the original signatories of the famous Pact of the Catacombs organised by Brazilian Archbishop Helder at a mass held on 16 November 1965.

This year also marks the centenary of the birth of Enrique Angelelli and Pepe Palacio, who were born in 1923.

The two YCW Internationals (IYCW and ICYCW) co-hosted the mass, which we also organised in the name of the Australian Cardijn Institutethe Cardijn Community International, the Centre International Cardijn.

Our celebrants were Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, Bishops Shane Mackinlay (Sandhurst, Australia), Bishop Dante Braida (Angelelli’s successor in the Diocese of La Rioja, Argentina), Fr Clarence Devadass (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), and Mgr Josef Sayer (Germany).

Participants included Synod subsecretary, Sr Nathalie Becquart, Clémence Otekpo (ICYCW), Sr Maria Cimperman, also a Synod participant from the USA, Basma Louis (IYCW), myself, Kris Kummari (International Catholic Rural Youth – MIJARC), Emilce Cuda from the Pontifical Commission on Latin America, former ACI president, Brian Lawrence, Br Mark O’Connor (Parramatta Diocese, Australia, Sean Cleary from Brisbane, and others.

Full details of the mass here:

Thanks to everyone for making it what we all felt was a genuinely synodal celebration, which we hope build on an earlier visit to the Catacombs by Synod participants.

Not forgetting Fr Thomas from the Domitilla Catacombs, who arranged everything for us so well.

Stefan Gigacz

With Don Dante Braida

Pepe Palacio

Pepe, a trade union leader, was active for many years with the YCW and also with the Christian Workers Movement. He had only recently been elected as the first lay collaborator (chaplain) of the International YCW and he had only recently returned to Argentina from Bogota, Colombia, where he took part in a Workers Meeting organised by the IYCW before he “disappeared.”

Amalia Palacio

Amalia Castano de Palacio

In another kind of martyrdom, Amalia, Pepe’s wife was left to raise their family alone. She died without ever finding out what had happened to her husband. Years later after the end of the dictatorship, their son, Jose Luis, was able to confirm his death at the hands of the military from information in the national archives.

Bishop Enrique Angelelli (left) with local people

Enrique Angelelli

As well as being a YCW chaplain, Enrique Angelelli was also a chaplain to the students movement, the JUC. And as a bishop in La Rioja, he worked closely with leaders from the rural Specialised Catholic Action movements.

Bishop Angelelli was also an original signatory of the Pact of the Catacombs adopted by Vatican II bishops, who wished to commit themselves to the poor and to the poor. Their pact was inspired by Joseph Cardijn’s consecration to the working class in 1903.

He was killed while returning from a mass in homage to two fellow priests, the Franciscan Carlos Murias and the French fidei donum priest, Gabriel Longueville.


Catacombs Mass (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

The Mass

Pepe & Amalia Palacio

Enrique Angelelli

Pact of the Catacombs