Thursday, 3 November 2011

Fr Giovanni Vantini

All friends of Sudan mourn the passing of Father Giovanni Vantini, for nearly 60 years one of the leading scholars in the rich field of Sudanese studies.  TfS Trustee, Herman Bell, has generously launched a fund in Father Vantini’s memory, to support the educational work of Together for Sudan. Contributions will be greatly appreciated. Donate on line here or go to our Donate page for other options. 

Herman has also written the following tribute:

Father Giovanni Vantini was inspired by the extensive history of Christianity in the Sudan and spent most of his life serving the people of the Sudan. He is remembered with affection by his Muslim and Christian friends and students.

Father Vantini was born in Villafranca di Verona on 1 January 1923. He was ordained a priest in 1947, trained in Arabic and sent to the Sudan. There he spent 58 years, teaching in schools established by the Comboni missionaries, working in parish churches and St. Matthew’s Cathedral (Khartoum), engaging in journalistic endeavours such as Assalam [Peace], a bi-weekly journal launched at the time of independence in 1956, and conducting research on the history of the Church along the Nile for most of the past 2000 years. In 2005, he published La Missione del Cuore - I comboniani in Sudan nel ventesimo secolo [The Mission of the Heart – The Comboni Missionaries in Sudan in the Twentieth Century] (Bologna). In spite of ill health in his final years he managed to achieve the publication of Rediscovering Christian Nubia (Khartoum) in 2009. He died in Verona on the 3rd of May 2011 at the age of 87.

His command of Arabic was a vital skill for the production of his Oriental Sources Concerning Nubia (Heidelberg & Warsaw, 1975), an important companion study to the historical and archaeological work in which he was involved at that time in the Nile Valley. He wrote one of his major publications in Arabic: Ta' rikh al-masihiyya fi-l mamalik al-Nubiyya al-qadima wa-l- Sudan al-hadith [The History of Christianity in the Old Nubian Kingdoms and the Modern Sudan] (Khartoum, 1978).

In the colloquial Arabic of the Sudan there is a relevant expression of condolence which is widely used:   al-baraka fiikum ‘Blessing upon you.’ Death reminds us of the great store of blessing that is available to us all. ‘Blessed be those who mourn for they shall be comforted.’

Saint Anna, mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
 Faras Cathedral.

Father Vantini was admired as a scholar and a man of faith. He was also a kind and generous friend. Even though the Canticle of the Creatures was composed almost 700 years before his birth by Saint Francis, the following verses still seem particularly appropriate.

Altissimu, onnipotente bon Signore,
Tue so le laude la gloria e l'honore
et onne benedictione.
Laudato si', mi Signore, per sora nostra Morte corporale,
da la quale nullu homo vivente po skappare,
Laudate et benedicete mi Signore et rengratiate
et serviteli cun grande humilitate.

Good Lord, most high and almighty,
To thee be praises, glory, honour and all blessings.
Be praised, my Lord, for our sister bodily death
From whom no human being can escape.
Praise and bless my Lord; thank Him,
And serve Him with great humility.

By Herman Bell - TfS Trustee.