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Voices from the Amazon: Land, People, and Religion

A conference on “Voices from the Amazon: Land, People, and Religion” will spark deep conversations and ideas at the Auditorium Antonianum in Rome on 5 October 2019, one day before the synod begins.

The conference will include Mons. Hector Cabrejos, OFM, President of the Episcopal Conference of Latin America, Br. Julio Bunader, Vicar General of the Order of Friars Minor, Patricia Gualinga, Sarayaku Leader, Ecuador, and many more.


This conference is an opportunity to discuss the synod with synodal fathers and indigenous leaders one day before it begins. Seating is limited–please register as soon as possible.

IMPORTANT: The conference will be held in Italian, Spanish and Portuguese. English translation will not be provided. 



8.15 Registration and Greetings

9.00 Opening and Introductions
Moderator: Agustin Hernandez, Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy, Antonianum Pontifical University

  • Professor Mary Melone, Rettore Magnifico Antonianum Pontifical University
  • Fr. Michael Perry, OFM, General Minister of the Order of Friars Minor
  • S.E. Signa. María Elvira Velásquez Rivas-Plata, Ambassador of Peru to the Holy See
  • S.E. Jorge Mario Eastman, Ambassador of Colombia to the Holy See
  • Dr. Fabio Espitia Garzón. Attorney General of Colombia


10.00 Testimonials
Moderator: Sara Muzzi – Secretary of the Italian Center di Lullismo, Antonianum Pontifical University

  • Patricia Gualinga, Sarayaku Leader, Ecuador
  • Sister Laura Vicuña, Amazonian indigenous community, Brazil


11:00 break

  • Gregorio Diaz Mirabal, President of COICA
  • Fr. João Messias Sousa, OFM Munduruku Leader, Brazil


12.30 Lunch

14.00 Synodal Church for Integral Ecology and Laudato Si’
Moderator: Tomás Insua, Executive Director of the Global Catholic Climate Movement

  • Sarah duPont, Producer and Co-Director, “River of Gold”
  • Mons. Hector Cabrejos, OFM, President of the Episcopal Conference of Latin America
  • Tania Ávila, Coordinator of the Amerindian Network–Cochabamba and Indigenous Theologian
  • Deacon Alirio Cáceres, CELAM integral ecology program & Global Catholic Climate Movement


15.30 Closing remarks: Fr. Valmir Ramos, Order of Friars Minor General Definitor

La Verna: a place of solitude, the cross and the joy of the blessed | Homily for the Feast of the Stigmata

Homily of the Vicar General for the Feast of the Stigmata of St. Francis of Assisi

La Verna – 17 September 2019


By climbing this sacred mountain, we naturally want to draw the message that the Lord continues to give us in this place where He makes His presence felt. It is, therefore, He Himself who summons us today: Friars Minor, the Franciscan family, and all the people of God. I would like to emphasize in particular three dimensions of what happened to St. Francis here at La Verna, concerning this precise place which is: 1) place of silence/solitude; 2) place of the cross/passion; 3) place of the joy of the blessed.

  1. Place of silence/solitude. Francis’ life was entirely centred on “observing the holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rb 1:1). In order to be ready to welcome the Lord, he took long periods that he loved to call “Lent”, times dedicated to prayer and fasting. On this mountain of La Verna, in September 1224, the Saint withdrew for one of these times of silence and solitude, of more intense prayer during which he received the stigmata. Here we find a beautiful icon of the desert, both exterior (around us) and interior (within us).
  2. Place of the Cross/Passion. Saint Bonaventure defines Francis as “man of the Gospel” (LM 13:1), who embraced the Cross of Christ at the beginning of his conversion. From that moment on he will always carry the Cross and the Passion of the Lord “giving example to others, with such clarity of certitude” thus reaching “the summit of Gospel perfection”, (LM 13:10).
  3. Place of the joy of the blessed. Celano describes Francis’ experience at the moment of the apparition, saying that: “ When the blessed servant of the most High saw these things, he was filled with the greatest awe, but could not decide what this vision meant for him. Moreover, he greatly rejoiced and was much delighted by the kind and gracious look that he saw the Seraph gave him” (1Cel 94). Here are the gifts received: joy, delight, beauty and sweetness. The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 15/16) helps us to meditate on this experience of Francis.


Click here to read the full text in Italian: ofm.org


From the Minister General: An Update of Progress to Recovery

Dear Brothers of the Order,

May the Lord give you peace!

It is my intention to provide you with an update of progress achieved on my long road to recovery. But first, I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude for your prayers, emails, cards, and for the many other ways you have demonstrated your care and support for me following a very serious bicycle accident. Your support has provided me with so much courage and strength. I will continue to count on your support and prayers for the coming months.

I continue physiotherapy three times a week for three hours each day. In the meantime, I cannot put any weight on my left leg as I await the healing of the acetabula, a part of the pelvis that serves to hold the ball joint of the femur in its place. It was this part of the pelvis that was broken into thirty-one pieces. Under the best of circumstances, if this bone heals properly, I should be able to return progressively to a normal life but will need to reduce some activities for the coming 8-10 months. If the bone does not heal correctly, there is a strong likelihood that I will require further surgery sometime in the near future to replace the hip. I will meet with the orthopedic surgeon again on October 15 and hope to have a better idea of how the bone is healing.

I do not have any other information to provide at this time. I simply wish to repeat an expression of my gratitude to each of you, and to the Brothers of the Fraternity of St. Peter’s in Chicago and my home Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus for their support for me on this journey. Thanks also to my Conventual, Capuchin, and Third Order Regular Brothers, to the Poor Clares, the Conceptionists, Secular Franciscan Brothers and Sisters, and countless others who are supporting me with their prayers. May God bless each and every one of you. Special greetings also to my Brothers of the Fraternity of Santa Maria Mediatrice (the Curia fraternity) in Rome.

May God allow each of us to pursue our calling to follow the Gospel with gratitude and joy each moment of our lives.


Chicago, September 16, 2019

Fraternally yours,

Br. Michael A. Perry, OFM
Minister General and Servant


Prot. MG 141/19

Seventh International Franciscan Congress amid Islam

The Special Commission of the Order for dialogue with Islam organized the Seventh International Franciscan Congress amid Islam that took place in Istanbul from 9 to 15 September 2019.

 The Congress seeks to commemorate the 8th Centenary of the Meeting of St. Francis of Assisi with Sultan Malik Al-Kamil in Damietta. This meeting brought together a group of 20 Franciscan brothers, sisters and laypeople working in interfaith dialogue with Islam, from the USA, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Morocco and Pakistan at the Convent of Santa Maria in Draperis in Istanbul.

 The reflections during the Congress examined St. Francis’s meeting with the Sultan from the Franciscan Sources as well as from the experience of eight centuries of meetings and testimonies of many Franciscan brothers and sisters concerning Islam. The work done by Francis of Assisi becomes, for our world today, a model and prophecy of peace and an encounter with the other, according to the spirit of chapter XVI of the Earlier Rule of St. Francis.

South Asian Franciscans Commemorate the 800th Anniversary of Encounter between St. Francis and Sultan

Franciscan Major Superiors from Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India gathered at the Camillian Pastoral Centre in Bangkok, Thailand from 18 – 24 August 2019 to reflect on the Franciscan Missionary Charism and how it could be effectively transmitted in the region. Sixty Franciscan Major Superiors present for the gathering considered it an opportune time to celebrate 800th Anniversary of Encounter between St. Francis and Sultan. Religious leaders from Buddhism, Islam, Christianity and Sikhism were present for the commemorative event. These leaders stressed the value of peace and dialogue in a multi-cultural society. Admiring St. Francis and the Sultan for their courage to initiate a dialogue, each of the speakers shared how both men were inspiring in their own ways for everyone committed to peace. The event was organized by Association of Franciscan Families in India (AFFI) under the umbrella of South Asian Franciscan Initiative (SAFI). Br. Praveen Henry D’ Souza OFM, Minister Provincial is currently the President of AFFI.

A month before, at another event, the heads of various religions showed their grit and determination in voicing loudly yet convincingly for a respectful dialogue, peaceful co-existence, and harmonious relationship during the Inter-Religious Event on Dialogue, Peace and Harmony on 27 July 2019, in Bengaluru, India.

The Franciscan Family in the Archdiocese of Bengaluru under the patronage of its Archbishop came together to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the historical peace expedition of St. Francis.

As this anniversary opens the avenues of dialogue among the religions, the Franciscans in Bengaluru left an indelible impression of inter-religious dialogue by inviting leaders from different religions who spoke on the importance of peace and harmony and how it is possible to find the common ground for peaceful and harmonious existence in the world in spite of our differences.

Speaking about the event, Br. Praveen said that this event was just a beginning. He added, “The Franciscans ministering in Bengaluru and elsewhere in India commit themselves to promote respect for all faiths, to encourage dialogue across various religions and to create peaceful environment walking in the footprints of St. Francis of Assisi.”

Communique from the General Definitory – Tempo Forte of July 2019

On Tuesday, July 16, the General Definitory began the Tempo Forte of July 2019 after taking part in the Under 10 Chapter of Mats, in Taizé (France) from 7 to 14 July 2019. As usual, they began by sharing the experiences of each of the members in recent weeks.

During the following sessions, 57 scholarships were granted and renewed, and new ones were awarded. Decisions were made regarding the young friars who are in the different stages of initial formation in Entities dependent on the Minister General, in particular in the Notre Dame d’Afrique Foundation, in Congo Brazzaville, and in South Sudan.


The following General Visitators were elected:

  • Br. Alberto MARANGOLO, for the Piceno Province of Saint James of the Marches, in Italy;
  • Br. Vicente-Emilio FELIPE TAPIA, for the Province of Our Lady of Arantzazu, in Spain;
  • Br. Giuseppe FERRARI, for the Seraphic Province of St. Francis, in Italy (Assisi);
  • Br. Guillermo Lancaster JONES CAMPERO, for the Province of the Holy Gospel, in Mexico.


Numerous dossiers relating to the general procurator’s office were discussed, including the following requests for:

  • information on accusations concerning graviora delicta (5);
  • dismissal from the Order (3);
  • dispensation from celibacy and the obligations of the clerical state (9);
  • dispensation from solemn vows (1);
  • secularization ad experimentum (2);
  • secularization pure et simpliciter (2);
  • indult of exclaustration (2: for three years and one for a third year);
  • dispensation from temporary vows (1).


The Minister General also granted two applicants readmission to the Order without having to repeat the Novitiate.

Candidates for service as Minister Provincial were approved for two Entities that will shortly celebrate their Chapter.


Acts of Elections were ratified:

  • in the so-called Intermediate Chapters (election of Definitors), celebrated in the following Provinces:
    • Sacred Heart of Jesus, in Italy;
    • Saint Michael the Archangel, in Italy;
    • Saint Michael the Archangel, in Ukraine;
    • Saint Francis of Assisi, in Poland;
    • Most Holy Saviour, in Slovakia;
    • Blessed John Duns Scotus, in France-Belgium.
  • in the Chapters in which the entire Government of the Provinces was elected:
    • Most Holy Name of Jesus, in Italy;
    • St. Francis of Assisi, in East Africa, Madagascar and Mauritius;
    • BVM Queen of China, in Taiwan;
    • Assumption of BVM, in Poland;
    • Holy Family, in Egypt;
    • Holy Martyrs of Gorcum, in the Netherlands;
    • Saint Elizabeth, in Germany;
    • Santiago de Compostela, in Spain.
  • In extra-capitular meetings: for 7 Entities (Guardians and a Provincial Definitor).


The General Definitory met Br. Cesare Vaiani, Secretary General for Formation and Studies, the General Treasurer, Br. John PUODZIUNAS, the Secretary General for the Missions and Evangelization, Br. Alonso Morales Duque, and the Assistant Br. Antonio Lanzi, Br. Jaime Andrés Campos Fonseca and Br. Rufino Lim, of the JPIC Animation Office.

The General Definitory also met with Br. Sergio Galdi of Aragon, Secretary of the General Chapter 2021. This will be held from 1 to 29 May 2021, in Manila, the Philippines as already communicated. They began the work of planning and preparing the Chapter. Two Vice-Secretaries for the Chapter were also elected: Br. Dexter Toledo, of the Province of St. Peter Baptist, in the Philippines, and Br. John Wong, of the Custody of Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei, dependent on the Province of the Holy Spirit, in Australia.

During this Tempo Forte, after a further meeting with the lawyers and the notary who accompanied the planning phase, it was decided to create the OFM Fraternitas Foundation, whose purpose will be pursuing various activities aimed at social solidarity.

After meeting Br. William Short, Visitator General for the Sant’Antonio International College, in Rome, the General Definitory elected Br. Estêvão Ottenbreit as Guardian of the CISA. They also discussed other projects that will be communicated to the fraternity at the beginning of the new academic year.

Br. Michael and the Conventual and Capuchin Ministers General, with Br. Cesare Vaiani, project coordinator, and Br. Dinh Anh Nhue Nguyen, dean of the Seraphicum, were received in audience by the Archbishop Secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education, to whom they presented the UNIFRA project, which received an excellent welcome and firm support.

On 16 and 17 November 2019, the Friars who live in the Houses of Rome dependent on the Minister General will meet at the Shrine of Our Lady of Divine Love, in Rome, for a meeting of fraternal sharing, in the style of a Chapter of Mats.

The next Tempo Forte will take place from 16 to 27 September 2019.

To the praise of Christ and the Poverello of Assisi. Amen!


Rome, 6 August 2019


Br. Giovanni Rinaldi, OFM
Secretary General

Congress of Formators of North and South Slavic Conferences

From 1 to 7 September 2019 the Continental Congress of Formation was held for the two Conferences of Eastern Europe (North and South Slavic). It was the last in a series of six Congresses organized by the General Secretariat for Formation and Studies (Br. Cesare Vaiani e Br. Siniša Balajić) which took place starting in 2017 and which involved the formators of the various conferences of our Order, present in different continents. This Congress took place in Krakow (Poland) and saw the participation of almost thirty formators from the different Provinces present in Eastern Europe. These congresses, mandated by the 2015 General Chapter, dealt with the theme of accompaniment in ongoing formation, with particular attention to the formation of Guardians and vocational animation. The participants, at the end of the work, approved a short text that collects the main indications that emerged from the Congress. The participants were fraternally welcomed by the friars of the Province of Saint Mary of the Angels and were able to appreciate not only the quality of the contributions and the experience of the fraternal encounter, but also the beauty of the ancient city of Krakow.

JPIC Continental Meeting – Europe

Malta, 2nd-5th September 2019 – “Living Franciscan humanism in today’s European context: Go and repair my house” was the topic of the VII Continental Meeting of JPIC European Animators.

In the retreat house “Porziuncola” in Malta, there was the meeting of 25 brothers working for the animation of the values of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) in the European continent. The meeting started with the celebration of the Eucharist, presided by Br. Richard Stanley Grech, OFM, Provincial Minister of the Province of St. Paul in Malta.

JPIC animators, coming from Spain, Ireland, England, France, Austria, Italy, Poland, Lithuania, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and our hosts, Malta, presented their realities… Through the presentations of the Conferences we had the possibility to appreciate how JPIC animators are putting into practice the priorities set forth by the JPIC Office of the Curia… We recognized the profound work concerning the care for the creation, hospitality to migrants and the promotion of peace.

After sharing the JPIC work done in the Conferences, we listened to the presentation by Andrej Owca, SVD, who lives in Geneva and is member of the NGO ONG VIVAT International: he talked about the current social and political context in Europe. The concept of “Franciscan Humanism” was introduced by Br. José Antonio Merino, OFM, Ph.D in Philosophy and Letters, through two presentations: “Franciscan humanism for a culture of love” and “Franciscan Humanism and Ecology”.

We completed the formation meetings with two practical experiences offered by the JPIC commission of the Province of St. Paul in Malta: a visit to “John XXIII Peace Lab”, an organization that tries to promote solidarity and moral values rooted in the Christian faith, without excluding any other ideas nor people. We took part in the inauguration of the “Time for Creation”, organized by the interdiocesan Commission for environment.

During the last days of the JPIC Continental Meeting, the animators worked in linguistic groups to plan the JPIC work for the next three years, in light of what the Plenary Council of the Order proposed and according to the Declaration of the International JPIC Council in Jerusalem in 2019.


Emotional Issues – the Role of the Fraternity

A reflection on the emotional maturity of candidates as well as that of the professed friars seems essential, remembering that when it comes to emotional balance, we can take nothing for granted, and nothing as being definitively acquired.

It is, therefore, a question of assisting each friar to become more aware of this vital dimension of our life and developing the habit of dialoguing about these issues with people of trust. This should happen before difficulties arise, so that these healthy helping relationships can be engaged in times of need. In this area, perhaps even more than any other, it is difficult to overcome difficulties on one’s own. The help of someone competent and reliable is needed.

More specific sexual issues do not always have to do with a significant experience of falling in love. In this regard, perhaps a renewed attention to the ascetic dimension and the capacity for renunciation would be helpful — approaches which, although insufficient in themselves, are still necessary in order to live the vow of chastity. In this regard too, a stronger contrast to the culture of “everything is permissible, always” should be encouraged.

In some individual cases (but not always) this discussion can be linked to the broader theme of “addictions”. When we speak about addictions, we mean the psychological and sometimes physical habit of addiction and dependence on substances, habits, or harmful behaviours.

In our fraternities, offers of assistance ought to come from the individual’s confreres, and in particular from the Guardian when the problem becomes evident. But we know that sometimes the friars do not notice a confrere’s dependencies, or if they are aware, justify them as “peculiar habits” or “personal characteristics”. Often, when a friar’s problems lead him to decide to leave the Order, the friars of his fraternity say that they were unaware that anything was the matter. This is true not only in cases of addictions (which less frequently lead to requests to leave the Order) but also in cases of emotional involvement with others.

In each case, both when we do not notice an issue and when we justify the unjustifiable, it seems to trigger a kind of complicity, arising from a mistaken notion of discretion. It appears that friars think “it’s none of my business” or “I must not judge my brother” and therefore avoid addressing the problem. Cain’s question appears in us: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Sometimes even a distorted feeling of solidarity emerges, whereby the activities of the problematic brother are justified, and even defended against superiors or other friars, lashing out at those who raise the issue.

Of course, we are not called to be indiscreet or to be intrusive in dealing with the affairs of others. However, there is a level of fraternal involvement which no member of a fraternity should evade. If I notice a brother’s problem, in addition to talking to the person concerned, it would be useful to speak in a constructive way with the leader of the fraternity itself, not as gossip but as a form of help for the brother who needs it. All this brings us back to the existence of a fraternal climate, something that we must promote and nurture in our communities. (F&PDocument, pp. 36-39)

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Being Stewards of Creation

Br. Roger Lopez explains, in this video, that stewardship of God’s creation requires wisely using our dominion over all creation as God does, so that everyone benefits from it.

We now have in our society this language of care. How can we reduce our impact with the environment?

This is an important part of our stewardship, that God gives us this [responsibility] as a gift. We see it from the very beginning in Genesis. God says, I give you dominion over the fish and the birds and all the creatures. And we have to understand dominion in its right way.

A lot of times, maybe in the past, we saw dominion as: We can do whatever we want with it. But that’s not how God works. God has dominion over all the universe and he does not reach into our lives and overpower us or use it for harm. His dominion is one of care, is gentle, it’s one that is constantly thinking of the others. Can we reorient our own image of domination to be like this, like God?

That is stewardship of creation: to look at every perspective, every action, and how’s it going to affect what God has given us in the world. So from recycling, to transportation, to carpooling—asking these important questions helps us, moved by God, to take care of this wonderful world that he has given us as proper caretakers of God.

Challenges for the OFS and YouFra

For centuries the challenge for Christians has always been to find the courage to be living and effective witnesses of the Gospel of Jesus, in whatever ambit of ​​life they lived. Unfortunately, given that we are human beings and sinners, every day we are called to face ever new challenges. Jesus has always been clear on this point, and in fact he asks us to “take up our cross and follow him” (Mark 8:34). Living in such a selfish world, sometimes without even realizing it, people fall easily into individualism. The estrangement from one another justified either by the difference in age or by different attitudes and thoughts often represents a fundamental challenge for both. In today’s society, in which we focus more on what divides than on what unites us which makes us grow and helps us to live our Franciscan vocation as members of the OFS and YouFra it is necessary that everyone is aware of the importance of beginning to open wide the doors that create divisions, be they age, ideologies, religions…and begin to live the Franciscan charism in which the emphasis is placed on the Gospel. However, to face the different challenges, the members of the OFS and YouFra must always try to walk together looking at Jesus and not at themselves – and, often this is the biggest challenge both for the members of the OFS and of the Franciscan Youth.

In this context, “By their Profession, Secular Franciscans commit themselves to live the Gospel according to Franciscan spirituality in their secular state” (GGCC, Art. 8), devoting themselves to the effective and fruitful witness of their faith. First of all, we should not be content with just belonging to the Franciscan family, but rather we must look for ways of being consistent with the faith and with the Franciscan charism, which calls us to live in vital and reciprocal communion with the brothers who are a gift of God.

The ecological challenge, the wars that are fought in the world, the consumption of drugs, marital crises, moral and spiritual decadence and the problems that lead to migration are further challenges on which the Franciscan youth and the Secular Franciscans are called to reflect both on a personal and collective level to find the most appropriate answers on how to propose the right way to the world, inspired and traced by the Gospel.

What is the attitude of the young Franciscans and secular Franciscans with respect to these challenges? No one can escape their present and future consequences. It is the duty of everyone to take responsibility for building a new world, where moral values ​​are respected and protected. It is necessary to seek together adequate solutions, and it is essential that those who have the responsibility of spiritual assistance commit themselves to “make grow collaboration in the witness and in mission, and to accompany processes of community discernment to interpret the signs of the times in the light of faith and under the guidance of the Spirit, with the contribution of all the members of the community, starting from those who are on the margins” of society and of the Church.


Download and read the full text:

Koinonia 2019-2“Identity and Mission of YouFra”

N. 102

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DOC : EnglishItalianoEspañolFrançais

Islam and Inter-Religious Dialogue: A Muslim Perspective

An excerpt from “Islam and Inter-Religious Dialogue: A Muslim Perspective” by Irfan A. Omar, Marquette University


Islam as a religion arose within the milieu where, among the Arabs, there were Christian and Jewish communities who professed monotheism not practiced by other tribes. People who eventually became Muslims were always aware of many of the figures that were part of Jewish and Christian heritage such as Abraham and Hagar. After the rise of Islam these figures became integral to the belief system of the new religion even though they were now seen through a slightly different interpretative lens. This was seen as a natural development because Islam’s view of itself was that it is a continuation of these earlier religions. Historically speaking, Islam, while recognizing these religions, sought to engage with their adherents and even referred to them as part of the family of religions (ahl-i-kitāb). This is the context in which one must locate Islam’s position on interreligious dialogue. In this sense, Islam has been dialogical from its very inception. But this is the ideal side of the history of Islam. In the political realm, Islam has also been used as a tool for confrontation with, and conquest of, others. This “other” has been often conveniently labeled as a “religious” and/or a “cultural” other. Though the Qur’an speaks of differences as real, it condemns the use of the notion of “difference” as a pretext to demonize or subjugate others. The Qur’an sees differences and diversity of peoples, cultures, languages and even religions as a strength (indeed, a “mercy” from God) rather than as a problem.


Today Muslims along with leaders, practitioners, and activists from many other traditions, continue to strive to engage in dialogue and discussion for the sake of creating and maintaining peace. The increase in religious violence has compelled many to seek common wisdom and engage in a joint struggle against hateful narratives which are on the rise. No religion has been immune to having groups which have committed ghastly acts against others. In some cases, these “other-ized” victims belong to a different religious tradition but in other cases, they may be individuals and groups belonging to a sect within the same religion. Therefore, all believers must take responsibility to address the culture of hate that seeks to capitalize on by creating an “other” on the basis of “difference” often resulting in violence in the name of religion. In a globalized world any injury that afflicts one human being or community or any other living being, affects all of us, and in many more ways than previously imagined.


Read the complete article from St. Francis and the Sultan, 1219-2019: A Commemorative Booklet:



Read on ISSUU


The Order is deeply grateful to the editors and staff of Franciscan Media (USA), which prepared the booklet for us. For your convenience, the Special Commission is also serializing the booklet, so that you may have a better sense of its contents.


Image: Niccolò Monti of Pistoia, St. Francis before the Caliph, Church of St. Francis, Cortona




Letter from the OFM Vicar General | Update on the Accident of the Minister General

Dear Brothers,

In the name of the Lord, I wish you peace and joy!

It is a week since our Minister General, Br. Michael A. Perry, OFM, had his accident and I now write to you, to the Franciscan Family, to all our friends, and to all who work with us in our mission to let you know that Br. Michael’s surgery has gone well. Br. Michael is doing fine, thanks be to God; he is recovering from the trauma associated with the accident, and is in good spirits as he begins his rehabilitation treatment.

Br. Michael asked me to let you know that he will need to withdraw from all activities for a considerable period. During that time he will devote himself to praying for all those who are in need of prayer, particularly for the friars who are facing suffering, illness, and uncertainty at present. Br. Michael also asks us to pray for him, praying that the Lord may continue to be at his side, granting him the strength and patience to cope with his rehabilitation. This treatment is currently taking place at The Shirley Ryan Ability Lab, 355 East Erie Street, Chicago, IL 60611. 

I take this opportunity to inform you that during the period of time in which I assume the ordinary vicarious power of government of the Order (GGCC 200 §1), I commit myself to do so entrusting myself to the help of the Lord and of my brothers — especially the General Definitory — so that as a fraternity we may continue to follow Our Lord Jesus Christ and, through the action of the Holy Spirit, to live the Gospel in the Church according to the form observed and proposed by St. Francis of Assisi (cf. GGCC 1 § 1). In order to carry out this service in the best way possible, I will be careful to keep the Minister General informed and will seek to act according to his mind and will (GGSS 148 § 3). 

Let us remain united in prayer to the Most Holy Trinity and to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, St. Francis, and St. Clare.

With fraternal good wishes,

Rome, 25th August 2019 

Br. Julio César Bunader, OFM
Vicar General

Obedience — Ministers and Guardians

The prevalence (in regard to the vow of obedience) of individualistic values of personal autonomy (36%), associated with modernity, is freely recognised. There is, in fact, a clear awareness of the difficulties in living this vow today. It is no longer seen as discernment of God’s will (45%), but only in terms of self-sufficiency, of not having ties that constrain or threaten one’s freedom. There is a perceived lack of deep interpersonal communication with superiors (31% = 436), highly correlated to the belief of their inability to manage authority (the superiors are either too weak or too authoritarian) (32%). This is a gap that perhaps is being remedied today within Religious Life through more adequate preparation of those in charge. Here again, the discourse of interpersonal relations returns; no longer among friars of equal rank, but rather in the vertical relations of authority, which today require a lot of prudent competence in the management of leadership within communities of Consecrated Life.” [Mion, p. 115]

We have noted that the theme of fraternal relations and the difficulties related to them cuts right across this study, not just in the more specific topic of the management of authority, where the complaint, especially from the younger group, is of a climate in which “everything is allowed”. This can be seen as a significant plea for the promotion of a better aptitude for true “government” of the fraternity, which must be attentive to people and in dialogue with them. But above all, it seems that the most significant complaint is the absence of this kind of government, rather than bad practice in government.  (F&P Document, p. 35)

The data and interpretation that have been presented show that friars in a vocational crisis very often need not only personal accompaniment from a spiritual director or a professional, but also a real rapport with the Order’s institutional representatives, because it is in relationship with them that the friar’s sense of belonging can “heal” and re-establish itself. Given the sensitivity of the Minister or Guardian’s task in this situation, in which there is a combination of more personal aspects and issues that are more institutional, this service cannot be simply left to the intuition or improvisation of the individual Minister or Guardian — a more specific preparation is needed…..

The area of the animation of fraternity: training in the collaborative preparation of a common life project; management of local Chapters or other meetings; conflict management and ordinary relationships, etc.

The area of personalized accompaniment: training in empathic listening; the discernment of the motivations and ideals of the friars with whom he is engaged; skills and a breadth of vision in the accompaniment of those in crisis and in the process of a “second decision”; clarity as regards the essential aspects of Franciscan identity, etc.  (F&P Document, pp. 54, 55)

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Introducing the Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil

An excerpt from “Introducing the Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil” by Br. Michael D. Calabria, OFM


Like many Muslim rulers of his day, the Sultan was a cultured and learned man. Muslim historian al-Maqrizi wrote that: “Al-Kamil much loved men of learning, preferring their society…He loved discussions with Muslim divines, and had a good number of curious problems on jurisprudence and grammar with which he would examine scholars, and those who answered rightly he advanced and gave them his favor. He gave lodging with him in the Citadel to several men of learning…Beds were set up for them beside his so that they might lie on them and converse through the night. Learning and literature flourished under him, and men of distinction resorted to his court.”

The Sultan’s apparent interest in Francis could very well have been due to his resemblance to the fuqarā – “the poor ones,” the mystics of Islam called Sufis – literally the ones who wore patched woollen garments. In his appearance, manner and speech Francis’ Order of poor, itinerant “lesser brothers” would have seemed to him more like a Sufi brotherhood (ţarīqah). Not unlike medieval Christendom, the Islamic world of the 12th – and 13th centuries had given rise to numerous mystics – male and female – who spoke of the oneness of existence, who expressed a burning desire for a God experienced as Beautiful, Merciful and Gentle, and who emphasized a life of itinerancy, contemplation, and spiritual and material poverty.

We know that al-Kamil was particularly drawn to a Sufi poet of his day, ‘Umar ibn al-Farid, called “the Prince of Lovers” on account of his sensual pining for the presence of God.  Stories related about al-Farid speak of his habit of stripping off his clothing, his ability to communicate with animals, and his tearful fits of desire for the divine, topi also found in Franciscan hagiography.  Al-Kamil would also have been familiar with a sufi master called al-shaykh al-akbar, “the Greatest Shaykh,” Ibn al-‘Arabi, who passed through Egypt at least twice during al-Kamil’s lifetime. Ibn al-‘Arabi is the sufi most associated with the concept of al-wahdat al-wajud, “the oneness of being.” Sucinctly put, the term signifies that there is only one existence, one wajud that is God. Thus, although humans perceive multiplicity in the phenomenal world – different peoples, races, classes, religions, etc. – true existence belongs to God alone. Every person and thing only reflects the existence of the One, and thus all is one in the One. Given his attraction to Sufi spirituality exemplified by Ibn al-‘Arabi and al-Farid, it is no wonder that the Sultan took interest in Francis.


Read the complete article from St. Francis and the Sultan, 1219-2019: A Commemorative Booklet:




Read on ISSUU


The Order is deeply grateful to the editors and staff of Franciscan Media (USA), which prepared the booklet for us. For your convenience, the Special Commission is also serializing the booklet, so that you may have a better sense of its contents.


Image: Taddeo Gaddi, St Francis and the Trial by Fire before the Sultan of Egypt




Letter from the Minister General about his Bicycle Accident

My dear Brothers, 

May the Lord give you peace!

I am writing from the University of Chicago medical center. On Thursday, August 15, I was riding my bike along the lakefront, something I have done each day since beginning my holiday in the United States. Unfortunately, I did not see a place in the road where there was a hole. I entered the hole but then ran into another slab of concrete, which prevented me from moving forward. As a result, I fell from the bike onto my left side. The impact of the fall onto hard cement resulted in the breakage of part of the pelvic bone that holds in place the femur and controls leg movement. As a consequence, I will undergo surgery to reconstruct of the affected areas. I thank God that no other parts of my body were injured.

According to the doctors, it is a complex injury that will require extensive post-operation physical therapy and rehabilitation. I will be absent from the General Curia for an extended period of time. According to Art. 200 §1 of our General Constitutions, during my absence as I am impeded, all issues and matters must be referred to the Vicar-General, Bro. Julio César Bunader.

Thanks to the Friars, to the Conventuals, the Capuchins, the Poor Clares, the Sisters, the Secular Franciscans and all those who have sent messages or have called to demonstrate their concern and support for me. 

I will ask one of the friars of my Province to provide updates to the General Curia as things develop. Please keep me in your prayers! Even as you pray for me, I will keep you in prayer. May God bless each of you.


Chicago, Illinois, USAAugust 17, 2019

Fraternally yours,

Br. Michael A. Perry, OFM
Minister General and Servant



Prot. SG 19/19

Identity of YouFra in Today’s World

There is no better way or recipe to find one’s true identity than to commit oneself to understand what the Scriptures say about man and woman, creatures made in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen. 1: 26-27). The Word of God offers, to those who listen to it, not only the opportunity to know their own identity, but also numerous perspectives to carry out the mission of witnessing to an evangelical life lived after the model of St. Francis. It is imperative that we should try to imitate the young man of the Gospel: “Good Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mk 10:17). In other words, even today, young people must have the courage to ask Jesus what the path they must follow to find their true identity and their mission in this world is, in the place and in the reality in which the Lord has placed them.

When young people let themselves be guided by the light of the Holy Spirit, they understand that they are «called to share their experience of Christian life in fraternity, and, in the light of the message of St. Francis of Assisi, seek to deepen their own vocation under the auspices of the Secular Franciscan Order».

Those who understand this and are thus able to deepen their vocation will be pleased to discover that their being a Christian is somehow intertwined with that of the OFS, whose Rule can become an inspirational document for the growth and maturation of their own Christian and Franciscan identity (cf. GGCC OFS art.96, 3). For this reason, the most important thing is to identify oneself as children of God who need to love others and to be loved, to listen and to be heard, to respect others as one wants to be respected (Cf. Mt. -40; Mk 12.29-30.33; Lk 10.27).

However, this awareness is not attained automatically: everyone must listen to the Word of God, be able to love it and preserve it in his heart. It is important to have the courage to find one’s specific and true identity as children of God, worthy of the freedom to witness the faith, the happiness of living and proclaiming the truth, not only with words, but also with works. Thus the Holy Father reminded young people: “My dear young friends, love the word God and love the Church, and this will give you access to a treasure of very great value and will teach you how to appreciate its richness…It is not easy to recognise and find authentic happiness in this world in which we live, where people are often held captive by the current ways of thinking. They may think they are “free”, but they are being led astray and become lost amid the errors or illusions of aberrant ideologies”. Therefore, the great secret whose discovery allows us to find our identity is hidden in the Sacred Scripture and in the Rule of the OFS (cf. GGCC art. 96.3): if it is sought with a spirit of discernment it is discovered and thus we become children loved by God and called by Him to follow Him along the path prepared for us, for the benefit of the fraternity and the world to which we belong. As believers we must always identify ourselves with Jesus: in service, in sacrifice, in listening, in forgiveness, in accepting, in mercy and in brotherhood. It is essential that today’s young people, despite their fragility, feel that they are his disciples, joyful to carry on the hope of a better future, without ever falling into conformism and allowing themselves to be guided by the true light – Christ himself! – at the same time walking in the light of the message of St. Francis of Assisi!

To find one’s identity depends totally on continuous discernment, on the ability and courage to let oneself be guided by the Spirit of God. «If we live by the Spirit, we also walk according to the Spirit» (Gal 5:25). Of course, it is not enough to read or listen to the Word of God if one does not have faith transmitted by parents. To find their identity, young people need the accompaniment of adults, who are exemplary teachers who help them, accept them as such and offer them the opportunity to find in their example the lived Gospel in which they can find comfort, acceptance, light for their steps even in a world where egocentrism dominates the hearts of so many young people! For this reason the Holy Father continues to remind them: «To you young people I say: Do not be afraid to go against the current, when they want to rob us of hope, when they propose rotten values, values like food gone bad – and when food has gone bad, it harms us; these values harm us. We must go against the current! And you young people, are the first: Go against the tide and have the daring to move precisely against the current. Forward, be brave and go against the tide! And be proud of doing so».

As Jesus asked his disciples to tell him what men thought of him (cf. Mt 16:13), so should be the attitude of parents, elders, religious leaders and political leaders: «to search together to look for the possible self-awareness of the world of youth», so that young people can recover the desire to feel like people of faith, able to learn from adults and admit that they need their help. This is the secret for appropriating one’s identity and mission which, for the members of YouFra, is that of being Christian and Franciscan. Therefore, always try to be witnesses and instruments of the mission of Christ among men, announcing Christ with life and with the word (cf. Rule OFS 6 CCGG 17.1). This is the heart of true and authentic Franciscan identity.

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Koinonia 2019-2“Identity and Mission of YouFra”

N. 102

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Healing the Violence of the Contemporary World

An excerpt from “Healing the Violence of the Contemporary World: A Franciscan Paradigm for Dialogue with Islam” by Br. Michael F. Cusato, OFM


We would do well to repeat the message: the one we think is our enemy is actually our friend. To understand the true import of Francis’s words and to avoid the pitfall of equating the meaning of “friend” with “friendship,” it is better to associate the Latin word amicus (friend) with a word that is a little more familiar to us and more central in the Franciscan lexicon: frater. Seen in this light, the one we have been taught to see as our enemy – taught by society, taught by the Church – is actually our fratres et sorores, our brothers and sisters!

In this powerful, if brief, message, Francis is telling the brothers that he is going to the Holy Land in order to show by the actions of his own life that the one whom the Church calls the infidel and the enemy par excellence is, in fact, a brother: part of the human family, a member of the human fraternity. Francis is going, in other words, to preach by his words but especially by his own deeds the message of penance: namely, that no one, not even the one most despised by the Church and considered to be the enemy of Christ, not even those who may have perpetrated heinous deeds against another, surrenders their creaturehood or exists outside of the human fraternity. But such creaturehood also entails responsibility: the responsibility of each member of that sacred fraternity – Christian and Muslim – to live in a manner that preserves and honors the bonds that indissolubly bind us all together. To do this is to do penance. Francis is going to the East to show this – and to live this – even if it might cost him his own life. And if it does – if, in the process of being utterly faithful to the life he has promised since his encounter with the lepers, treating every human person as a sacred creature of the human fraternity – then, having been faithful to his vow, he and all who follow him in this will gain eternal life. It is what every religious is promised on the day of his or her profession.

This is a profound message, utterly consistent with what Francis learned in the seminal experience of his conversion. Thus: Francis did not go to the Holy Land to provoke his own death. Rather, he went in order to bring the message of penance and to live out, to its ultimate conclusion, his radical vision of the universal fraternity of all creatures.


Read the complete article from St. Francis and the Sultan, 1219-2019: A Commemorative Booklet:



Read on ISSUU


The Order is deeply grateful to the editors and staff of Franciscan Media (USA), which prepared the booklet for us. For your convenience, the Special Commission is also serializing the booklet, so that you may have a better sense of its contents.


Image: Francis before the Sultan, Chapel of the Most Sacred Heart, Church of the Gesù, Rome




Lay friars and clericalism

The percentage of lay friars who leave the Order is on average higher than that of the friar priests who leave.

This figure requires interpretation. We might speculate that it indicates an unease linked to a crisis of identity, which can be greater in the case of lay friars because it is not supported by priestly ministry which seems to be a fundamental aspect for many friars.  We can add to this the fact that in the sociological survey [Prof. Mion, 2013] the issue of clericalism in formation emerges; “1 friar in 4 highlights an accentuated clericalism in his formation and mission (25.4%).”

By clericalism we mean a perspective that sees the priest friar as the norm (or default) of the Franciscan identity and that, consequently, thinks of Initial Formation in terms of preparation for the priesthood on a par with (and perhaps more important than) preparation for perpetual Profession. Within this perspective, it is normal to ask a young friar to justify his choice of asking not to become a priest — the path to the priesthood seems to be “taken for granted” or “normal”. A sign of this clericalism lies in the fact that Initial Formation programmes expressly designed for lay friars are rarely to be seen, while the route of philosophical and theological studies, based on that of diocesan seminaries, seems to be the “normal” model. Perhaps then we should not be too surprised that, some years later, many leave the Order to become diocesan priests. In some cases (without generalising) perhaps it is ultimately the right choice, which might not have been possible at the beginning, but that in a clerical Formation was insufficiently challenged.

The slow but persistent decrease in lay vocations should also be noted. From 2003 to 2017, the percentage of Solemnly Professed lay friars dropped from 16.9 % to 16%. This decrease might also be interpreted as a sign that these friars are not always easily inserted into the Province — a kind of specific identity crisis of the lay friar within our fraternities, due to an “imbalance” towards a somewhat clerical identity. The slow and steady decline of lay friars in the Order is perhaps reflected in the fact that some of the countries that have strong growth in vocation numbers have very few candidates to be lay friars, because almost all of them aspire to the priesthood. This option may also reflect a desire for social advancement and poses the question of how clear the Franciscan identity is to young candidates. (F&P Document, pp.  29, 30)

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What sums up St. Francis’ spirituality? The Canticle of the Creatures

Br. Murray Bodo explains the meaning of St. Francis’ prayer of praise to God through Mother Earth. The universe that God created is the primary revelation to humankind. It’s the primary Scripture, and Francis helps us connect again to all creatures and to the Earth itself.

The Canticle of the Creatures for Francis summed up his whole spirituality and his whole life, because he praises God by being a part of all of the created world.

He singles out the four elements of earth, water, air, and fire. And he calls them his brother and sisters:

Brother Fire

Sister Water

Brother Wind

Sister Mother Earth

They became his brother and sister, and he praised God with them and by means of them.

The universe that God created is the primary revelation to us. It’s the primary Scripture, and I see in Francis someone who will help us connect again to the animals, to the birds, to the oceans, to the Earth itself.