The story of Sharing among peoples, and before the one of the Community of Pope John XXIII (APJ23), is inevitably linked to the personal life of its founder don Oreste Benzi,
He was born on 7th September 1925 in a small village in the hills near Rimini. He was the seventh of nine children of a poor family of workers.
Ordained priest in 1949, he immediately committed himself to the education of adolescents and young adults.
Driven by his innovative spirit, he made a revolutionary proposal for the times: to spend holidays together with disabled young people who were usually “locked up” inside their families or institutes.
In 1958, with a letter of introduction of his fellow-citizen Federico Fellini, he left for the United States in search of funds to build in the Dolomites a holiday home for the youth especially the less fortunate ones.
Thanks to these meetings with marginalized people and the help of some young volunteers, in 1971 Father Oreste founded an association for the religious education of adolescents called “Pope John XXIII” which has today become the Community of Pope John XXIII. He was its President until 2nd November 2007, the day he returned to our Heavenly Father.
In 2014 the cause for his beatification has started.
The heart of the Community is the family home, that is a family where a couple is available to welcome disabled people, abandoned children, marginalized and needy people making them feel true members of the familyIn 1973 the first family home opened in Rimini, with the aim of giving a family, as Father Oreste used to say, to those without one. At the beginning were welcomed mainly children and disabled people. Over the years it provided shelter also to lonely old people, former drug addicts, immigrants in distress and young women rescued from prostitution.
In his latter years, it was not unusual to meet Father Oreste at dead of night in the streets to offer a dignified alternative to women forced to prostitution with violence and threats.
At the time, the tenacity with which he fought this battle and the audacity of his action that opposed the interests of the organized crime, drew the attention of the public opinion, not only national.
Attracted by the personality of this small but brave provincial priest, some of the most popular TV talk shows used to invite him regularly. Father Oreste made use of this unexpected fame to spread his battles far and wide and to raise awareness among Italian authorities and civil society, at times indifferent and unprepared to face such pressing problems.
As simple as a child who first does things and then thinks about them (as he used to say), Don Oreste changed the fate of many people. As a matter of fact he succeeded in many tricky tasks considered impossible by the majority. Wherever dignity and human rights were in danger, the "don" was there to offer comfort, hope, and solutions. Faced with the horrors of the war, he asked many young people to share their life with the oppressed populations and with people who are the last among the last in society.
On 24th May 1986 he inaugurated the Holy family home for children, the first family home abroad in the city of Ndola, Zambia.
Since then, his trips in developing countries multiplied. Oftentimes local missionaries and Church asked both for his and his Community fellows intervention.
Sharing among peoples was established in Rimini on 28th March 1989 and it was recognized as NGO by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs 10 years later.
The humanitarian organization of the visionary priest of frontier has spread to the remarkable figures of more than 40,000 beneficiaries per year in over 500 facilities in 36 countries.
So far ...