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Peace, Minority, Theocentric itinerancy | Homily of the Minister General at the 2019 FCAO Gathering

Memorial of Saints Cyril and Methodius

‘The Kingdom of God is at hand for you.'”

My dear brothers of the two Conferences comprising the Franciscan Conferences of Asia and Oceania, may the Lord give you his peace!

The concluding words of the Gospel of St. Luke, which are associated with the commemoration of the great Slavic evangelists Cyril, and his brother Methodius have much to say to who we are as Friars Minor in the regions of the human community, Asia and Oceania. “The Kingdom of God is at hand for you!” It is precisely this focus on the Kingdom ministry that serves as the driving force for the work of the Conferences of Bishops, prior to, during, and following upon the Special Synod of the Bishops of Asia and now Saint John Paul II’s post-synodal document, Ecclesia in Africa.

What happens to the Church, to the Order of Friars Minor, to each of us when the values of the Kingdom of God are placed at the center of our lives, our fraternities, our Order, Provinces, Custodies, and Foundations? This is the ‘million dollar’ question to which we are called to give a response. I would like to suggest there are three things that happen – or that could happen – when we place the pursuit of God’s Kingdom at the center of all of who we are and what we do. These same three elements form the nucleus of St. Luke’s understanding of and teaching about the Kingdom ministry carried out in the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

According to the Gospel text we have heard today, it is clear that peace– shalom – is central to Luke’s understanding of the meaning and purpose of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. “In whatever house you enter, first say: “Peace to this household.” This peace is not simply the absence of violence, nor is it a proposal for living a care-free life, devoid of all responsibility or concern for others, for the life of the world. For Luke, peace is intrinsically linked to righteousness, to the pursuit of God’s justice, God’s intention for the world, namely, that it might be reconciled and brought back into one, healed of all divisions. And at the heart of this peace is a deep, abiding encounter with the living God who is the source for shalom, peace, God’s gift to the world.

A second and most essential element of the Kingdom ministry of Jesus is related to minority, being subject to all, as St. Francis would later write in the Regula non bullata (chapter 16, the Missionary instruction). In the first chapter of the Gospel, Luke tells us that the Kingdom is about self-emptying, abandoning one’s own will and allowing God to define who we are and how we act and react to all circumstances of life. This is at the heart of the Canticle or Magnificat. Luke’s vision of the Kingdom runs contrary to major contemporary trends in economics, politics, social life, and even in the Church. These trends include: an economics of exclusion; a materialistic mentality of accumulation that can lead to all forms of abuse (spiritual, sexual, mental, the abuse of the natural environment, and even to clericalism); a focus on self-satisfaction and the pursuit of individual happiness. This is at the heart of Jesus’ critique of the rich fool in chapter 12 of Luke’s Gospel who, today, might go by the name of a hedge fund operator.

What is common to all of these forms of exclusion and self-aggrandizement is that they have absolutely no qualitative relational connection with God or other human beings. In the end, the rich fool lives and dies in absolute isolation, talking to himself, already living in hell. We are called to live out of a very different ‘logic’ – “Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals.” This can only be possible if we are truly, deeply connected to God – Jesus – the Spirit of God, and if we are connected to one another through the gift of fraternity. A spirituality grounded in a theological approach where the Kingdom of God is at the center necessarily requires of us to become God-centered and people-centered disciples. Salvation is all relationship.

Yet a third element contained in today’s Gospel text is that of the urgency of going out to the highways and byways of the world carrying a message of something ‘great’ that we ourselves have experienced – personally and also collectively/fraternally. Thus, evangelical itinerancy is part of the DNA of our Christian, our Franciscan, identity. Pope Francis’ focus in his Apostolic Letter Evangelii gaudium seeks to convince each baptized Christian that he or she is a mission, and thus is missionary. The ‘evangelical’ nature of proclamation, however, takes on a particular form in a context where Christians are in the absolute minority, which is the case in most of Asia with the exception of the Philippines and, to an ever-decreasing extent in Australia and New Zealand. First, the understanding of participation in the life of the Kingdom of God is broadened in a particular way so as to include those who are professed members of other religious traditions (Nostrae aetate). Second, Jesus’ Kingdom ministry reminds us that the Kingdom is not in service to the Church but rather the Church exists for the sake of, and to give concrete expression to, the Kingdom. And third, Jesus’ coming into the world is a single, unrepeatable, unique sign of God’s drawing near to all of humanity, all of creation. But Christ’s coming into the world is to promote the central values of the Kingdom of God. Jesus does not come to proclaim or promote self. Christology does not become a category for promoting an exclusionary theology – ‘ex ecclesia, nulla salus’ menta. A Kingdom approach to Christian life and mission allows us to broaden our categories and to develop a theocentric vision, one that enables us to enter into authentic dialogue with ‘the other’, with the world of today. In this context, we become joy-filled bearers of the love, mercy, joy, peace, and hope of the Gospel that we ourselves have received, towards which we are continually being converted, and to which we are called to give witness through our daily lives.

Peace – Minority – Theocentric itinerancy: these are the essential ingredients of the Gospel itinerancy lived out in the life of Jesus and proposed to us by St. Luke. These also are contained in the challenges put forth to the entire Order by the Plenary Council of 2018 (PCO, Nairobi), calling each of us to enter into a new spirit of listening, discerning, and going forth, a going forth prophetically. We read in the conclusion of the final Document of the PCO:

“The Father is calling us, Friars Minor, to live and act prophetically and in fraternity in today’s world. Prophetic living means being a living witness to love, mercy, and goodness of God and a sign of a Church who is mother of all, with particular care for the poor, the most fragile and suffering people, and those who are migrants and refugees…Prophetic living and acting means going beyond pastoral activity that is mere maintenance, and instead committing ourselves to a wider evangelization by offering everyone the Lord’s message of salvation…[living] a way of life in which all the strengths and abilities that the Lord has given us to build the Kingdom of God are spent in its service” (PCO 178).

Brothers, let us begin!

Br. Michael A. Perry, ofm
Minister General

Closing Mass for the Meetings with the Franciscan Conferences of Asia and Oceania
Bangkok, Thailand, 14 February 2019

 

Together Against Human Trafficking

On February 8, the World Day of Prayer and Reflection against Human Trafficking has been celebrated since 2015 by Pope Francis. It is the memorial of Saint Josephine Bakhita, a religious of Sudanese origin who was a victim of slavery for many years in her life. The Day is promoted worldwide, mainly by Talitha Kum, the International Network of Catholic Religious against human trafficking, through its International Committee.

Various activities have been carried out this year around the world, praying and reflecting, to raise awareness on this problem that mainly affects women, boys and girls. The motto chosen for 2019 is “Together Against Human Trafficking,” since it is a problem to which no one can remain indifferent, nor can it be approached by an individual, and we need joint actions.

In Rome, two public activities were carried out. On the memorial of St. Josephine Bakhita, we gathered to pray together at the prayer vigil with the theme, “Shed a Light against Human Trafficking.” About 500 people, mostly religious, gathered at the Basilica of San Antonio (Antonianum). There also was a group of religious who completed the Training Course for leaders of the networks against human trafficking, offered by the Talitha Kum in collaboration with the Pontifical University Antonianum.

On Sunday, the 10th of February, many people participated in a public march from the Castel Sant’Angelo towards St. Peter’s Square. During the march, the prayer-cards for the victims of human trafficking was distributed to the people who gathered in the square to participate in the Angelus with the Pope. At noon, Pope Francis led the Angelus and addressed words of gratitude for those who work against human trafficking, especially the religious. He also urged governments: “I make a special appeal to governments to address with determination the causes of this scourge and protect the victims.” Finally, he invited everyone to pray for the intercession of St. Josephine Bakhita.

Br. Jaime Campos F., OFM
JPIC Office – Rome

Watering the Seeds of Dialogue

From 10-14 December 2018, 16 Franciscan brothers from various FCAO entities and beyond gathered in a Buddhist monastery, and lived as brothers among almost 200 Buddhist monks and nuns in the foothills of the Khao Yai National Park outside of Bangkok, Thailand, for 5 grace-filled days of inter-faith encounter and ongoing formation in dialogue.

The combined Franciscan Order and Plum Village Inter-Faith Dialogue Retreat: Building Brotherhood and Sisterhood was organised by the Order’s Commission for Dialogue and the monastic sangha (community) of Thai Plum Village, of the Vietnamese Zen Mahayana Buddhist tradition founded by Thầy Thích Nhất Hạnh.

On the first evening, our OFM brothers, together with other Catholic religious, clerical and lay secular participants were provided with an orientation session, which began with a tea drinking meditation led by senior Plum Village monastic, Brother Pháp Niệm. With filled teacups in hand, our brothers were led to mindfully appreciate the drink, and to encounter the seed, cloud, sun and rain within the cup of tea.

Each morning of the retreat began at 4am with a bell of mindfulness, with sitting and walking meditation before breakfast. Participants also witnessed the recitation of the mindfulness precepts by our monastic and lay Buddhist brothers and sisters and shared their reflections on some of these precepts.

In the plenary sessions led by Thai Plum Village, Brother Pháp Niệmspoke about the mindfulness teachings, traditions and practices of Plum Village He also shared about their tradition’s insight about Jesus and the Buddha as brothers. He noted that for Christians, where two or three are gathered in the name of Christ, Christ is present in their midst; and for Buddhists, whenever the sangha gathers in harmony, there the Buddha is present.

Phra Goh (Bhante Adhibalo), a young Singaporean monk of the Thai Theravada Buddhist tradition, and active participant in inter-religious dialogue, gave an excellent presentation on the history of Buddhism and development of Buddhist teachings and traditions.

Br. Tom Herbst, a Franciscan theologian and educator from the Santa Barbara Province (USA) and now based in England, performed a dialogue of discovery between Buddha and St Francis, and presented on Christian and Franciscan perspectives on dialogue. This was very well received by all the Franciscans and Buddhists present.

Br. Francis Lee from Korea shared insightfully on the intersection of Buddhist and Christian values, based on his exegetical reading and reflection on the Admonitions of St Francis and thought of St Bonaventure.

A panel sharing was also held, in which invited panelists from the Franciscan and Plum Village traditions shared in-depth and honestly about our respective formation structures, spirit of service, and strengths, limitations and challenges experienced.

For most of the retreat participants, a highlight of the time together was the ‘Be-in’ fraternal celebration on the final night, that comprised of sharing, music and exchange of gifts. As part of a pre-Christmas celebration, our brothers, who wore Santa Claus hats and held candles, sang a number of Advent Carols and gave to each of the monks, nuns and lay friends a small gift bag containing sweets and treats from our different countries.

A lay couple from Japan shared that they were moved and filled with gratitude to witness and experience how Catholic priests and religious and Buddhist monastics are able to understand each other and work for peace.

All of our brothers were moved by the warm hospitality, genuine fraternity and meaningful friendships that developed across our Franciscan religious and Buddhist monastic traditions, and many remarked that they now feel better equipped and more motivated to continue with their engagement in Christian-Buddhist dialogue in their respective countries.

At the conclusion of the week together, the Thai Plum Village leadership felt it was so enriching, that they requested that we have this on a regular basis every 2-3 years, and are happy to continue to host the encounters.

As one of the Plum Village monastics shared in their Vietnamese web page: “Although the days spent together were few, they resulted in much joy and happiness in the hearts of the Buddhist monks and Franciscan brothers, with a shared spirit of compassion, understanding and honest dialogue.”

Photo: langmaithailan.org

 

Passion for Jesus, passion to encounter his people | Homily for the Opening of the Meeting of the General Definitory with Ministers from Asia

The Meeting of the General Definitory with the Franciscan Conferences of Asia and Oceania (FCAO) Ministers began with the Opening Eucharistic Celebration on February 10, 2019 in Bangkok, Thailand.  Br. Gregory Redoblado, General Definitor from FCAO shared these words at Mass:

As we begin this historic meeting of the FCAO Ministers and Secretaries with the Minister General and the Definitory, it is an opportune time to reflect and renew our vocation as friars minor and more so our vocation within a vocation: as Ministers for our brothers in Asia, Australia and Oceania.

In the first place, we need to “go out into the deep” and recall constantly our very own vocation story. By such personal remembering, we can be reminded that our vocation is all about God and his mission to love. Sometimes with the many concerns that we have, God is discarded out of the picture, appropriating the work and mission as our own.

Secondly, we reflect upon Simon Peter’s total response. The Gospel says, “he followed the Lord leaving everything”. Following and leaving everything is a serious and radical response. It entails renunciation abandoning his net and his boat. We enter religious life not for an easy and comfortable life but a missionary life that includes challenges and difficulties.

Finally, Simon Peter’s vocation remind us also to continue catching fish. There is a general crisis of vocation in the whole world. But according to Pope Francis in his homily during the World Day of consecrated life, “Consecrated life is not about survival, it is not about preparing ourselves for the art of dying well (ars bene moriendi): this is the temptation of our days, in the face of declining vocations. No it is not about survival, but new life. It is a living encounter with the Lord and his people…”  It is passion for Jesus, passion to encounter his people, especially the poor! It means that we should continue to catch fish by obediently living our daily life. While Asia is considered as a growing region in the Order, we should not take this call to catch people for granted.

 

For the complete text: ofm-eac.org

Communique from the General Definitory – Tempo Forte of January 2019

During the Tempo Forte in January 2019, the General Definitory began to examine and discuss the General Chapter of 2021. Moreover, working with the General Secretariat for Formation and Studies, some themes and issues relating to formation programmes were studied, especially on the African continent.

On 15th January, the General Definitory, except for the Minister who was unable to attend for health reasons, took part in the traditional annual celebrations for the feast of the Pontifical Antonianum University, during which a doctorate honoris causain theology was conferred on our beloved confrere Br. Carlo PAOLAZZI.

Br. Peter TINDO and Br. Magdy David MARZOUK who currently carry out their missionary service in Khartoum in Sudan were welcomed and listened to while they were in the General Curia for a period of rest and reflection.

The acts of election of the Government of the Province “Our Lady Queen of China” in Taiwan were ratified, where Br. Michael SUNG-HOON WOO was elected as Minister,Br. Placid KWOK-WAH WONG, as Vicar and Br. Claudio PEGORARO, Br. John Baptist MIN-CHENG HUANG, Br. Bonaventura SZU-CHUAN LIN and Br. Pius MYOUNG-SU JEUN as Provincial Definitors.

The following requests came to the General Definitory:

  • dismissal from the Order (2);
  • dispensation from celibacy and the obligations of the clerical state (3);
  • secularisation pure et simpliciter(2);
  • dispensation from solemn vows (1);
  • exclaustration for three years (1).

 

The reports on the Custody of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in Brazil (at the end of the Custodial Chapter), the Custody of the Annunciation of the BVM in Albania, and the Missionary Foundations in Myanmar and Thailand (entrusted ad experimentum to the Province of the Holy Martyrs of Korea since February 2018) were tabled and considered. Moreover, the composite Franciscan presence in China and the possible future of our presence in Papua New Guinea were discussed.

The lists of candidates for Ministers Provincial presented by the General Visitators for the Entities that are preparing for Provincial Chapter were approved.

The next Tempo Forte will take place from 11th to 22nd March 2019.

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

 

Rome, 11thFebruary 2019

 

Br. Giovanni Rinaldi, OFM
Secretary General

Celebrating Damietta In Rome

The Commemoration of the 800th anniversary of Damietta began early in Rome. On December 13, 2018, when the Centro Pro Unione hosted Br. Michael Calabria, OFM and Dr. Muhammad Shafiq as co-presenters for its twenty-first annual conference in honor of the Servant of God Father Paul Wattson and Mother Lurana White, founders of the Society of the Atonement. Br. Michael and Dr. Shafiq spoke on the theme St. Francis and the Sultan: Foundations for Christian-Muslim Dialogue in the 21st Century.

In their collaborative presentation, Br. Michael and Dr. Shafiq discussed the historical context within which the encounter between St. Francis and Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil took place, the encounter itself, how both the Saint and the Sultan were able to transcend the prejudices of their day because they were each deeply committed to their respective faith traditions. It was in the light of such commitment that, contrary to the expectations of their contemporaries, St. Francis and Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil were able to see one another as friend rather than foe. Br. Michael and Dr. Shafiq concluded their presentation by exploring more recent initiatives in Catholic-Muslim dialogue worldwide, and by reflecting on contemporary challenges to fruitful dialogue from Franciscan and Muslim perspectives.

The Centro Pro Unione has made the Br. Michael and Dr. Shafiq’s presentation (in English) available online at www.prounione.it/it/media/conferenze-video/.

Br. Michael is President of the Order’s Special Commission for Dialogue with Islam and founding director of the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies at St. Bonaventure University (USA). Dr. Shafiq is the Executive Director of the Hickey Center for Interfaith Studies and Dialogue and Professor at Nazareth College (USA). The Centro Pro Unione is a ministry of the Franciscan Society of the Atonement. Its Director, Br. James Puglisi, SA, is a member of our Order’s Commission for Dialogue.

Holy Land: Brotherhood, coexistence, and acceptance – 800 years since the meeting between St. Francis and the Sultan

Terra Sancta College is the first school founded in Bethlehem and undoubtedly one of the first schools in the region. Active since the 16th century, thanks to the Franciscan Friars, who began their educational activities in the city of Bethlehem with two objectives: teaching children the principles of Christianity and focusing on foreign languages, English and Italian in particular, offering young people the possibility of a different life. Today the school has about 1180 students enrolled, 62 percent of whom are Christians and just over 38 percent of whom are Muslims. These numbers reflect the social composition of the city of Bethlehem and are an example of the mission being carried out by the Franciscans who guarantee education without any discrimination.

“We are one. We are brothers and sisters,” said Prof. Linda Deklallah, who teaches English and Islam, “and this project helps us remember that. Terra Sancta College in Bethlehem represents the meeting between St. Francis and the Sultan on a daily basis: we do not feel different [from each other].” The project, which was started in January 2019, has several objectives: raising awareness of the importance of peace, coexistence and acceptance others; improving the idea of interactive training expressed in the workshops that the students have carried out, both among themselves and with their teachers; creating a certificate of brotherhood, coexistence, and acceptance to be shared  outside of the school so as to be an example within society. “I think this kind of project helps to bind our community together,” said Nader Madbouh, one of the students involved. “Especially at this time of hardship and particularly political and economic conditions. We have many reasons to emigrate but if we are aware of who we are we can continue to live in peace as we have always done.”

The different phases of the work led to the moment when the Brotherhood Certificate was issued on Wednesday, January 30, in the presence of the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton, the Patriarch Emeritus, Mons. Micheal Sabbah, the Archbishop of Sebastia, Atallah Hanna, and the Mufti of Bethlehem, Abdelmagid Ata. In addition, there were representatives of the Palestinian Authority: the Minister of Tourism, Rula Maaya, the Minister for Islamic Religious Affairs, Yousef Dias, the representative for Christian Affairs, Hanna Issa, and the Mayor of Bethlehem, Tony Salman.

Br. Marwan Di’des, the Director of Terra Santa College who helped promote the initiative, explained that the project is based on the synthesis of the different stories of the meeting between St. Francis and the Sultan Al-Malek Al-Kamil, which can be found within the Franciscan Sources. The participants in the project also watched the film, “The Sultan and the Saint,” produced by UPF, the Unity Production Foundation, and it “was a real challenge,” said Fr. Marwan, “because the students are not used to watching documentaries, but watching it was important so as more deeply understand the topic.” During the initiative, there were also some challenging moments, such as when they watched the Lebanese film “Hala Lawain,” (“Now, where do we go?”) that speaks about religious fanaticism that leads to death. January 24th was dedicated to the workshops where the students produced a document supporting the need for coexistence. “Our aim was to make the youth understand that religious fanaticism leads only to death,” said Fr. Marwan. “In order to have peace, we need to be people who seek peace, and to be people who seek peace, we must be wise people. It is wisdom that leads to peace, not just brotherly love.”

St. Francis and the Sultan: from the example of these two figures who were able to dialogue in a moment of war, the youth wrote a statement composed of ten articles so that we can continue to build a society that is united and fraternal.

This agreement was made on the 800th anniversary of the encounter between St. Francis and the Sultan Ayyubid Al-Malek Al-Kamel in 1219.

“We believe that:

  1. We, as human beings, are equal before God.
  2. Education is the cornerstone to establishing peace.
  3. Knowledge of others is fundamental to safeguarding our diversity and our brotherhood.
  4. Knowledge and awareness of our surrounding environment despite its hardships gives us the ability to survive.
  5. A true faith experience with God is the way to peace.
  6. The monotheistic religions are a heavenly message of peace.
  7. Building human relationships is the foundational principle of coexistence.
  8. It is with open-mindedness and accepting others that mutual respect prevails and fears disappear.
  9. Initiatives based on wisdom are fundamental to establishing peace. 
  10. Actions that bring about concrete results to people’s lives are reinforced.”

Text: Giovanni Malaspina | custodia.org
Photo: Nadim Asfour / CTS

 

General Secretariat for Formation and Studies visits the Custody in Pakistan

The Secretary and Vice-Secretary General for Formation and Studies, Br. Cesare Vaiani and Br. Siniša Balajic, visited the Custody of St. John the Baptist in Pakistan from 20 to 27 January 2019.

During their stay in Pakistan, they visited the formation houses in Karachi, where they had talks with all the novices and students of philosophy and theology. Furthermore, they met with the Custos, Br. Yusuf Bagh, with all the formators, the members of the Secretariat of Formation and Studies of the Custody, with the vocational Animator and the Moderator of Ongoing Formation and with the Guardians.

On 25 January they took part in the ordination of 4 friars, which took place in Multan (in the centre of the country), where they had the opportunity to meet other formators and friars who were unable to attend the meeting Karachi.

On the last day of the visit, on the evening of Saturday, January 26, Br. Caesar and Br. Siniša again met all the friars of the Karachi and Hyderabad guardianate along with the theology students. They held a fraternal conversation and shared their impressions, ideas and viewpoints. After the meeting, they had a festive dinner together.

 

 

 

 

Barefoot pilgrims, brothers of all! | Final Document of The Third Franciscan Missionary Congress of Latin America and The Caribbean

 

FRANCISCANS GOING FORTH: NEW SCENARIOS – NEW CHALLENGES Barefoot pilgrims, brothers of all!  

Representing our Provinces, Custodies and Foundations, 130 brothers from 19 countries, including 21 lay people and 19 religious, with whom we share our charism and mission, we met at “Monte San Francisco”, Guatemala, the heart of the Mayan world. We met to reflect on the new scenarios from our Latin American and Caribbean context, that challenge us to re-establish the Franciscan charism in this historical time in which we live. It became a new Pentecost for the participants that starts us towards a new evangelisation and revitalisation of our identity.

We lived this Third Franciscan Missionary Congress rooted in the memory of thousands of Latin American and Caribbean men and women, lay and religious, priests and bishops who, in their struggle for justice, gave up their lives in martyrdom. Above all, in the memory of Monsignor Oscar Arnulfo Romero recently canonised, as well as that of friars Cosme Spessotto, Augusto Ramírez, Tomás Zavaleta and Tulio Maruzzo, of “Our Lady of Guadalupe” Province that hosted us, and in memory of our lay brother Luis Obdulio Arroyo, OFS.

With the motto “Barefoot pilgrims, brothers of all,” we feel solidarity with the six thousand five hundred Honduran brothers who only a few days ago left with their migrant caravan for the United States, and with the many men and women who in this last year had to flee from Nicaragua and Venezuela, looking for better living conditions. We experience these brothers’ forced departure from their countries of origin as a metaphor of our humanity in search of a land where there is security and bread for all. This motivates us to renew our commitment to the construction of the kingdom of God, which in these harsh realities continues to invite us to a greater dedication in favour of the most disadvantaged in our world.

We feel profoundly linked to our Order’s journey,which this year celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the foundation of UCLAF, born out of a desire to strengthen our charism and our mission and to deepen the links between the various Entities of the Order present in Latin America and the Caribbean. We thank God for all the fruits we have already gathered from this journey and those we still need to gather. Likewise, in the Congress the contributions of the recently concluded Plenary Council (PCO), held in June 2018 in Nairobi, Kenya, and the reflections that emerged from the previous Franciscan Mission Congresses of our continent, strongly resonated.

In response to this rich history of which we are a part and to the future to which this historic moment calls us – if we can face the present with discernment and audacity – we have structured this document in four parts:

First part:       Journey from Córdoba to Guatemala

Second part:    New scenarios that speak to us today

Third Part:      New challenges

Fourth Part:    Franciscans going forth

 

From this corner of our continent, we offer this document that is meant to be inspiring and provocative “written with feet rather than by hand … written by the feet of those who go outwards, the feet of those who have heeded the command from the Crucifix: ‘Francis, Go!’as well as the call of the leper: ‘Francis, Come!’” (Ite Nuntiate). Written by the feet of the 130 brothers and sisters who took part in this Third Franciscan Missionary Congress of Latin America and the Caribbean. We wish to share it with all men and women of good will: what we have seen and heard in these days of prayer, meditation, reflection and falling in love with our contemplative fraternity in mission.

 

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Acta Ordinis Fratrum Minorum 2017/03

Dear brothers in Christ, subscribers and readers,

May the Lord give you Peace!

As you all know, the publication of Acta Ordinis of the Friars Minor was interrupted following Br. Luigi Perugini’s return to his Province at the end of 2017. For a long time, Br. Luigi directed the editing and publication of this instrument that continues to be valuable even if today almost everything is available on the internet, as well as in real time. Grateful to Br. Luigi for his dedication and his work, the Order of Friars Minor wishes to continue publishing Acta Ordinis, guaranteeing its continuity, to the benefit of the many Archives throughout the world, true “Databases of history” that never go out of fashion, libraries, friaries and student houses.

I was appointed Director of Acta Ordinis last September, and after some time needed for the collection and writing of unpublished content, today I can resume the shipment of missing numbers. As a result of this, you are receiving the third issue of 2017. The volumes for 2018 and 2019 will follow shortly.

The structure, for now, is still four-monthly, the graphics have been simplified, and overall, I hope you can make more use of the publication.

We ask you to let us know, by post or email, any addresses that should be removed or added among the recipients of this mailing (suppressed or erected houses, unified Entities, changes of formation houses).

I take this opportunity to wish everyone a new year filled with the Lord’s grace and open to the Holy Spirit.

 

Br. Pasquale Berardinetti
Director of Acta Ordinis

 

Download the latest edition of ACTA: N. 3 – AN. CXXXVI – SEPTEMBRIS-DECEMBRIS 2017  (pdf)

 

The Franciscan Custody in Morocco celebrates the Eighth Centenary of the arrival in Morocco

The Franciscan Custody in Morocco is celebratingthe year 2019 as a Jubilee year marking the eighth centenary of the arrival of the Franciscans in Morocco.

The inauguration of the centenary was attended by many Christians, Jews and Muslims, and took place in three stages:

  • Wednesday, 16thJanuary, the Solemnity of the Holy Martyrs of Morocco, with a celebration of the Eucharist in our Church of the Holy Martyrs of Marrakech.
  • Sunday, 20thJanuary, with a celebration of the Eucharist in the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption in Tangier.
  • Saturday, 26th January, in our Church of St. Francis in Rabat, with an opening ceremony, attended by Mons. Vito Rallo, Apostolic Nuncio in Morocco, Mons. Cristóbal López Romero, SDB, Archbishop of Rabat, and Br. Julio Bunader, Vicar General of the Order. Afterwards, everyone enjoyed a festive event around a large paella prepared for 200 people. On Sunday 26ththe Vicar General of the Order presided over a solemn thanksgiving Eucharist with the participation of many of the friars of the Custody.

 

The celebration of the Eighth Centenary coincides with the eighth centenary of the meeting of St. Francis with the Sultan, a paradigm of encounter and dialogue.

The Franciscan Custody in Morocco is an international fraternity which has 20 friars from different Entities of the Order. They live in six Fraternities of the Custody and place themselves at the service of the local Church and the people of Morocco in an attitude of service and fraternal dialogue

Francis of Assisi and Al-Malik Al-Kamil (1219-2019): Conferences in 2019

In crossing Crusader army lines and being involved in the siege of Damietta on his way to meeting Al-Malik, Francis of Assisi has become an emblem of the possibility of overcoming barriers between peoples, cultures, and religions. In a creative interpretation, the so-called “Peace Prayer of St. Francis” was attributed to him during the cruelties of the First World War — a specter that looms menacingly once more.

The event and its interpretation have merged and blended, and this interaction is deserving of an evaluative study that will carefully avoid positivistic presuppositions or anachronisms. Ecumenical reflection has been innovative in seeing Francis as an ideal of inter-confessional reform and renewal in the human, social, political, ethical, and aesthetic fields.

Subsequently, Francis also comes to exemplify religion that is open and capable of including even those who do not identify with institutional religion.

The 1219 Damietta encounter has inspired a tradition of dialogue whose contemporary importance is becoming increasingly relevant. The Pontifical University Antonianumis committed to making the memory of this meeting ever more fruitful, seeing this as a necessary counterbalance to the political and environmental crises that characterize our era.

 

Instituto Teológico and Universidad de Murcia Murcia – Spain, 4-7 March 2019 The Efficacy of Words: A Meeting of Voices

A specific purpose of this meeting is the analysis of the languages, of the cultures, and of the methods of the encounter of religions in the perspective of Raymond Lull, and doing so also in the context of a more general reflection on the meaning of the borders between them in the meeting of Christianity and Islam, wherefore the Iberian Peninsula, and specifically the Theological Institute and the University of Murcia are a particularly appropriate ice cation for this.

 

Istituto di Studi Ecumenici “San Bernardino” Venice, 14 March 2019 A History of Dialogue Beginning with Francis

The long experience of the “San Bernardino” Institute of Ecumenical Studies makes for dealing with the matter of the dialogue in a well-qualified manner and with attention to the new horizons of interreligious and ecumenical reciprocity.

 

Pontificia Università Antonianum – Facoltà di Teologia, Diritto Canonico e Filosofia Rome, 9 April 2019 Reflecting on Hospitableness Past and Present

The Rome campus of the Pontifical University Antonianum will host a reflection on the historical-theological significance of Al-Malik Al-Kamil’s hospitality, and on the spiritual, indeed the mystical, roots of the Franciscan preference for hospitableness, with a view to a renewal of its practice.

 

Pontificia Università Antonianum – Facoltà di Scienze Bibliche e Archeologia Jerusalem, 15 May 2019 Damietta 1219

Being near, in terms of both geography and ideas, to the place of the meeting of Francis and Al-Malik Al-Kamil is itself an invitation to look more deeply into the historical dimension of the dialogue, with the aid of contributions from scholars who belong to the Franciscan “galaxy”.

 

Fraternità Francescana Internazionale per il Dialogo Ecumenico e Interreligioso Istanbul, 19 October 2019 Reciprocal Kindness

A city with a varied religious and political heritage, on the border between East and West, Istanbul is still today a space where interreligious dialogue has a key role in the perspective of world affairs, a place especially well-suited to favouring Muslim-Christian dialogue.

 

Istanbul, 28 ottobre-1° novembre 2019

Pilgrimage to Damietta

 

Pontificia Università Antonianum – Scuola Superiore di Studi Medievali e Francescani Rome, 29 May 2019 Western Views of Islam

Conference on the occasion of the Eighth Centenary of the Meeting of Francis of Assisi with the Sultan Al-Malik Al-Kamil, in collaboration with “lslamolatina” research group of the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, Italian Center of Lullism and Commissio Sinica.

 

ÉcoleFranciscaine de Paris – Service National des Relations avec les Musulmans Paris, 25-26 November 2019 1219, Francis and the Sultan: A Fruitful Meeting?

Reflecting on the richness and fruitfulness of the Franciscan tradition this Journey will conclude in Paris, there Jacques de Vitry reported the event at Damietta as, not only crossing the lines of the Crusader forces, but also as going beyond the religious, social, political and cultural confines of Western Christendom, at that time still self-referential and given to violence.

 

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Franciscans, Laudato si’ and WYD

I. Conference: Cardinal Turkson and John Paul II Foundation

 

Answering Pope Francis’ ecological conversion challenge

 

PANAMA CITY, 19 January 2019 – Just before World Youth Day begins, youth, Franciscan brothers, intellectuals and politicians gathered at the Third International Congress of the Care of Creation: Ecological Conversion of Action at the University of Santa Maria La Antigua.

At the conference, the participants learnt more about Laudato si’, refocused our minds towards those who are most vulnerable to climate change, and catalysed the youth to talk about actions that have worked, or they are working on in their own countries.

Laudato si’s focus was centered on action. The encyclical calls Catholics to humbly listen and witness the ecological injustice that is happening today and assess how to act on it. A few examples that Cardinal Peter Turkson talked about were divestment from fossil fuel companies, lobbying with industry leaders that pollute our planet, and finally, go back to our homes to start ecological clubs.

Action must go well beyond setting meetings and attending conferences. We also need to divest from fossil fuel companies. We need to develop our economy without forgetting those who are vulnerable to climate change such as the poor, women and children. We cannot profit from the misery of the environment.

Overall, staying true to the theme of World Youth Day Panama, “I am Your servant, let it be done to me according to Your will,” World Youth Day is a prime opportunity to spark action on environmental issues. It is also a prime opportunity to call on our church leaders for pertinent and practical support.

 

II. Retreat: Parque Natural Metropolitano, Franciscans, and WYD

 

One with nature, one for Laudato si’

 

PANAMA CITY – On Sunday 20 January 2019, the Laudato si’ volunteers reconnected with nature at Parque Natural Metropolitano to understand integral ecology and individually examine what is most important in life. The Global Catholic Climate Movement together with the Order of Friars Minor for Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation (OFM JPIC) communed a group of volunteers and led the theological conversations regarding our common home.

Feeling the breeze of the wind, the youth and Franciscans walked among the trees and animals that freely inhabit the park. Most interestingly, the volunteers also basked in the juxtaposition of nature being nestled within a bus city. Through group exhortations, we were reminded of the importance of turning off once in a while and enjoying what God has created for us.

During the retreat, the volunteers were asked when was the last time they encountered God through nature. When have we stopped to deliberately be in silence? When was the last time we reflected on the impact of human activity to a tranquil nature?

Volunteers and Franciscan brothers alike examined the encyclical Laudato si’ for phrases that spoke to our being. One volunteer shared about how today’s throwaway culture pervades our daily lives to be more consumerist and how as Catholics, Pope Francis calls us to re-evaluate for the sake of the poor and vulnerable to climate change.

To close off the day, Friar Jaime Campos OFM celebrated mass under the shade of trees. Through the gospel of the Wedding of Cana, he reminded the volunteers of our duty to obey our Mother. Much like how Jesus obeyed Mother Mary, we must also obey and respect our Mother Earth.

 

III. Workshops: Scientific perspective, Social Teaching of the Church and Spirituality: Testimonies of Laudato si’ Animators from different countries

 

Humanising Laudato si’

 

PANAMA CITY – As Pope Francis constantly reminded us, the youth is the future of the world and are the ones responsible for mobilising action to solve our environmental crises. Therefore, Global Catholic Climate Movement together with the Order of Friars Minor for Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation (OFM JPIC) held workshops to explain climate science and humanise climate action around the globe.

The day started with presentations that explain the adverse effects of the world’s consumeristic ways and dependence on an unsustainable economic system. Igor Bastos from the Global Catholic Climate Movement explained the paradox of today’s society showing the need to acquire more worldly riches despite the fact that more than half of the world are impoverished and risk losing their land due to climate change. Additionally, Fr. German Argueta OFM from El Salvador said that “when we disrespect for the Earth, we disrespect the humanity.” Thus, it is vital that recognising who are the victims of environmental degradation in order to humanise climate change.

In the afternoon, we heard from a panel of youth who taken up Pope Francis’ call to action in their local regions. Ana Belen from Ecuador shared an anecdote of how important the work of the church is in protecting the Amazonian communities. When a construction of a hydroelectric plant risked their communities, the church started petitions and met with important people to highlight the illegality and immorality of such plans.

Maria Agustina Rodriguez Ortiz de Rosas from Argentina also shared a personal encounter of a health problem triggered by air pollution. Upon developing a throat tumour, she was urged to further work with the Sisters of Charity to spread the Laudato si’ message and make eco-friendly choices in her daily life such as change soaps.

Overall, the common message for Dayana Bano of Ecuador, Tatiana Rodriguez of Colombia and Jose Abad Saenz of Costa Rica was the need to grow a network of Catholics who are committed to climate action. “As Catholics, we have the obligation to follow the Gospel. If God gave us the earth, we need to use the resources sustainably. If we want change, we cannot exclude anyone,” says Abad-Saenz.

Finally, to close the day, the Franciscan friars celebrated mass at the Laudato si’ village. The volunteers were given a blessing in preparation for the World Youth Day as agents of our mission to care for our common home.

 

IV. Bringing Laudato si’ to the world

 

PANAMA CITY, 22 January 2019 – World Youth Day officially starts today. The Laudato si’ volunteers along with the Franciscan brothers have been given their duties to bring Pope Francis’ message to the world.

Starting the day with laudes, the volunteers were guided to meditate on our service and frame our minds to focus on our mission at World Youth Day. Then, the volunteers were briefed on our duties, equipped with our materials and prepared our spaces.

Laudato si’ will be celebrated in three zones: Parque Omar, Colegio Internacional Maria Inmaculada and various Youth Festival stages.  Through these exhibitions, pilgrims will be encouraged to commit to living Laudato si’and start conversations on ecological conversion to recognise God in creation in their own countries.

Today, the volunteers based in Parque Omar led pilgrims to pray the rosary using recycled tyres and prepared the space for pilgrims to enjoy an art exhibition. Pilgrims were happy to charge their cellphones using solar energy through our charging booths. Likewise, the volunteers of Colegio Internacional Maria Inmaculada prepared the Laudato si’ village where pilgrims could meditate and learn more about the encyclical.

The volunteers and friars finished the day just as how we started it – praising the Lord. Together with other World Youth Day volunteers and pilgrims, the day was closed by celebrating mass with the Archbishop of Panama, Monsignor Jose Domingo Ulloa at Cinta Costera. In his homily, the Monsignor Ulloa welcomed the pilgrims and focussed on the need to take advantage of World Youth Day to catalyse youth action on climate change.

 

Text by: Dewy Sacayan

Letter of the General Minister on the 800th Anniversary of the Encounter between St. Francis and Sultan al-Malik al-Kāmil

Quae placuerint Domino (RnB 16.8)    Letter of the General Minister of the Order of Friars Minor on the 800thAnniversary of the Encounter between St. Francis and Sultan al-Malik al-Kāmil

My dear brothers of the Order of Friars Minor,
all brothers, sisters and friends of our Franciscan Family,
and all my Muslim sisters and brothers,

 

May the Lord give you all His peace!

Eight hundred years ago, our Seraphic Father St. Francis set sail for Egypt, finally fulfilling a long-held dream of reaching out to Muslims. He arrived at the camp of the crusading army, among Latin Christians who through years of preaching and the rhetoric of holy war had been taught to scorn Muslims. Those same Muslims had every reason to scorn Francis, assuming that he, like most in the crusader camp, was an enemy and not a bearer of peace. We today celebrate what no one at that moment could have foreseen: that a Spirit-filled man with nothing of his own crossed the battle lines unarmed to request a meeting with the Sultan, was received with grace by that Sultan, enjoyed an extended period of hospitality with the Muslim leader, and emerged from the visit to reflect anew on the mission of the Friars Minor. Francis returned safely to his homeland profoundly moved by the encounter and crafted a new and creative vision for his brothers about how they could go among the Muslims, about the things Friars could do and say “that would please God” (quae placuerint Domino, RnB 16.8). The anniversary of Francis’s encounter with al-Malik al-Kāmil at Damietta in 1219 beckons us to ask again what deeds and words, amid the pluralism and complexity of the world today, would be pleasing to God.

Discerning the signs of the times (Mt 16:3), the Church increasingly highlights interreligious dialogue as an essential element of the mission of the Church today. The Second Vatican Council exhorted the Christian faithful to engage in “dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life” (Nostra Aetate, 2). In particular, the Council taught that the Church regards the Muslims “with esteem,” and urged Christians to work with their Muslim sisters and brothers to promote social justice and moral welfare, peace and freedom, for the benefit of all (Nostra Aetate, 3). St. John Paul II carried this mission of dialogue forward in his ministry as Bishop of Rome, most especially when he called religious leaders of the world to our spiritual home, Assisi, to witness there the transcendent quality of peace. For those who gathered to pray for peace, the “permanent lesson of Assisi” consisted in Francis’s “meekness, humility, deep sense of God, and commitment to serve all” (John Paul II, Speech at Assisi, 27 October 1986). Popes Benedict XVI and Francis likewise invited religious leaders to make pilgrimage to Assisi and pray there for peace, and Pope Francis invoked the intercession of the Poverelloduring his own trip to Egypt, praying that Christians and Muslims truly call one another brothers and sisters, living in renewed fraternity under the sun of the one merciful God (Francis, Speech at the International Peace Conference, 28 April 2017). It is thus the universal Church calling the Franciscan family to animate this interreligious fraternity in the peaceful spirit of our Seraphic Father.  The Church calls us to raise up this seminal moment in our history, the journey of St. Francis to Egypt, to open ourselves anew to the transformation the Saint of Assisi experienced, and to walk together with Muslims and people of all faiths as fellow travelers, as builders of civility, and most fundamentally, as sisters and brothers, children of Abraham, our father in faith.

I encourage the Franciscan family to celebrate this anniversary as a moment when the light of the Gospel can open one’s heart to see the imago Dei in a person one regards with fear and distrust, or even worse, in a person one has been urged to hate. To that end, a number of resources have been prepared to assist all those inspired by this encounter to commemorate it in a fitting way. Accompanying this letter are intercessions that I encourage Friars to use during the Liturgy of the Hours throughout the anniversary year, intercessions that could be used in a variety of ministerial settings when appropriate. In April, the General Curia will make available an online resource book, prepared by the Special Commission for Dialogue with Islam, that provides historical background, Franciscan and Muslim perspectives on the encounter and other materialsto commemorate Damietta. Our fraternity in Istanbul, a community of Friars primarily dedicated to ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, will host a gathering in October of Friars working in Muslim-majority countries. The Pontifical University Antonianumhas likewise organized several public events in different countries over the course of the anniversary year. Whether academic or pastoral, I encourage you to actively participate in these and other events, and further, to consider creatively how your local community might commemorate Damietta in light of your local reality.

This anniversary offers a uniqueopportunity for collaboration between different branches of the Franciscan family. Anumber of Friars, Sisters andscholars of the Franciscan movement, and promoters of Muslim-Christian dialogue have prepared publications for release during this anniversary; I invite you all to take time this year to study and prayerfully reflect on how, in your local situation, the courage and openness to the Spirit seen in the Nile Delta so long ago might live afresh in you. The General Curia is eager to share the news of such efforts to build bridges of interreligious understanding, so please inform us of the events and initiatives to commemorate Damietta in your community and in the various Entities of the Friars Minor.

We live in a time when people of various faiths traffic on the demonization of Muslims and incite others to fear them. Aside from study and prayer about the themes of encounter and dialogue, I encourage followers of Francis who lack much personal exposure to Islam to recall the experience of our founder by taking a simple and concrete step: meet a Muslim. Get to know him or her, beyond the pleasantries of a cup of tea and social nicety. Try to learn and appreciate what experience of God animates him or her and allow your Muslim friend to see the love God has poured into your heart through Christ. Despite the Second Vatican Council’s insistence that Muslims, with us, “adore the one and merciful God” (Lumen Gentium16), many voices somehow sadly insist that dialogue between Christians and Muslims is impossible. Many contemporaries of St. Francis and the Sultan agreed, seeing conflict and confrontation as the only response to the challenge of the other.

The examples of Francis and the Sultan witness a different option. One can no longer insist that dialogue with Muslims is impossible. We have seen it, and we continue to see it in the lives of many Franciscans and their Muslim brothers and sisters who, with sincere and loving hearts, share the gifts that God has given them through their respective faiths. Fidelity to Francis’s vision involves sharing with humility. Indeed, the distinctively Christian gift we have to share with our Muslim sisters and brothers is not merely a humble Christian, but the experience of a humble God. Unique in his age, Francis praised God by saying, “You are humility” (PrsG 4), and spoke about the “sublime humility,” the “humble sublimity” of God (LtOrd 27). The Christian heart’s quest for God finds rest in the humility of the crib and the cross, signs of a God who stoops down in service and humbles himself for love of us. Francis invites us to reflect that divine humility to those we meet by taking the first step in service and in love. Moreover, fidelity to Francis’ vision calls us to receive the beliefs and believers of other faith traditions with a sense of reverence (OFM General Constitutions, art. 93.2; 95.2), with hearts and minds open to the presence of God in such an encounter.

I recognize that there are some in the Franciscan family, who live as minorities in the lands of their birth or adoption, find themselves caught up in political and sectarian strife, and may feel the threat of violence, as do many today in the land Francis once visited. In some countries, Christians and Muslimsshare the pains of social injustice and political instability. I invite you to reflect on another of the names Francis used in his Praises of God: “You are patience” (PrsG 4), or as Muslims invoke God: Yā Ṣabūr – “O Patient One!” Francis himself learned the virtue of patience through his ministry among lepers, through the challenges of his travels, and through trends he saw in the Order at the end of his life, when his own brothers abandoned some of the ideals he cherished. Francis meditated at length on the patient love Christ showed in his passion, coming eventually to identify patience as an attribute of a merciful God. “You are patience.” God follows a schedule unknown to us, and God stirs the hearts of women and men in ways unknown to us. Francis struggled to understand God’s plan for those who failed to follow Christ as Lord, and Francis found refuge in the prayer of praise that God is patience. May God grant the grace of patience to each of us as we learn to live together.

To our Muslim sisters and brothers, let me say how warmly we Franciscans remember the hospitality shown to our Holy Father Francis when his life was at risk. The interest many Muslims have shown in commemorating this anniversary testifies to the desire for peace expressed anytime a Muslim greets a fellow believer. I pray that this year will deepen the brotherhood we share under the God who created all things in the heavens and on the earth and that this bond continues to strengthen long after 2019. God could have made us all the same, but God did not (Al-Shūrā 42.8). With you, your Franciscan sisters and brothers are eager to show the world that Christians and Muslims can and do live alongside each other in peace and harmony.

In conclusion, let us never forget that the example of St. Francis was a life of ongoing conversion. As a youth, he was repulsed by lepers, but an act of mercy changed his heart and “what had seemed bitter to me was turned into sweetness” (Testament, 3). That moment, the beginning of Francis’s life of penance, is intimately linked to Francis’s experience at Damietta in 1219. Francis’s heart had been opened by lepers before, and when he found himself in the presence of a Muslim he had been taught to hate, it was opened once more. The biblical call to conversion (Heb., shuv; Aram. tuv) is echoed in the Qur’an’s repeated command to turn to God (tūb), to avert evil with goodness and acts of charity to society’s most vulnerable. Believers today—regardless of the name they use for God and the manner in which they worship—are called to the same courage and openness of heart. Amid the groanings of the world for interreligious understanding, may our humble, patient, and merciful God show all of us the deeds and words that are most pleasing to God.

 

Rome, 7th January 2019

Peace and all good,

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

 

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Letter on the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of the promulgation of the OFS Rule

Circular letter of the Conference of General Ministers of the Franciscan First Order and Third Order Regular to all the friars and the brothers and sisters of the Secular Franciscan Order (OFS) and Franciscan Youth (YouFra) on the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of the promulgation of the OFS Rule

 

 

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Dear sisters and brothers, may the Lord give you peace!

 

  1. Forty years: a symbolic period

On June 24, 1978, the Holy See approved the renewed Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order with the publication of the apostolic letter Seraphicus Patriarcha. It was the recently canonized Pope St. Paul VI, himself a postulant Franciscan tertiary in his youth, who gave this gift to the Franciscan family just a few weeks before his death. Forty years have passed since the promulgation, and this anniversary seems to us a fitting occasion to address to you this celebratory letter. As is well known, in the Bible the number forty is charged with symbolic meaning; the span of forty years is first of all a generation and also seems to be the time for mature decisions. Therefore, this seems an opportune moment to thank the Lord for all that the sisters and brothers of the OFS are already living and to give new encouragement to their presence, which is invaluable for the whole Franciscan family.

 

  1. The Secular Franciscan Order in the Franciscan family

“The Seraphic Patriarch Saint Francis of Assisi, during his life and even after his beautiful death, not only attracted many to serve God in the religious family founded by him but also drew numerous members of the laity to enter his communities while remaining in the world as far as possible.” Thus the beginning of the apostolic letter of Pope St. Paul VI, issued in 1978, recalls how various lifestyles of Christian discipleship in the Church emerged from the experience of St. Francis.

“Among the spiritual families raised up by the Holy Spirit in the Church [cf. Lumen gentium 43], the Franciscan family unites all the members of the People of God: laity, religious, and priests, all of whom recognize the call to Christian discipleship in the footprints of St. Francis of Assisi. (Pope Venerable Pius XII, Speech to Tertiaries I, 1.7.1956). In different ways and forms, but in a living and mutual communion, they aim to make present their common charism of the Seraphic Father in the life and mission of the Church.” (cf. Apostolicam Actuositatem4,8; OFSRule I, n. 1)

It would seem that the possibility of serving the Lord fully in every state of life was already in the intuition of Francis. Thus, in some sense he anticipated the wisdom that every Christian in the Church is called to holiness, that wisdom that Vatican II emphasized strongly and Pope Francis has recently recalled in his apostolic exhortation Gaudete et exsultate: “Strengthened by so many and such great means of salvation, all the faithful, whatever their condition or state, are called by the Lord – each in his or her own way – to that perfect holiness by which the Father himself is perfect.” (n. 10, quoting Lumen gentium11) In fact, the Franciscan Third Order (today the Secular Franciscan Order) has been enriched in its history by many figures of holiness; it is enough to think of Angela of Foligno, Bridget of Sweden, Catherine of Genoa, Elizabeth of Hungary, Gianna Beretta Molla, John Bosco, John XIII, Giuseppe Moscati, King Louis IX of France, Margaret of Cortona, Pius X, and Thomas More, just to name a few of the most noted saints. To all of the saints and blesseds is added the most recent, Veronica Antal, beatified on September 22, 2018. With this “marvelous and varied flourishing of Franciscan holiness” (collect for the feast of All Franciscan Saints), the Franciscan Third Order has truly shown itself indispensable for the full expression of our charism.

 

  1. The challenges of today and the mission of the Church

The challenges facing the Church of today are many and complex. However, the time in which we live is also certainly a kairos, a time of special grace in which it is possible to experience a “new chapter of evangelization”, as Pope Francis invites us to do in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium: “In all the baptized, from first to last, the sanctifying power of the Spirit is at work, impelling us to evangelization. […] In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples (cf. Mt 28:19). All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization.” (119-120) As Franciscans, we see ourselves as particularly in harmony with the invitation of the Pope to live as a Church that goes out toward the geographic and existential peripheries of the world, so full of divisions, injustices, and sufferings. We are called to help build a universal evangelical fraternity, to work for the care of creation and for peace and justice, with a special consideration for the poorest and most needy, after the example of our Seraphic Father Francis, who “was particularly concerned for God’s creation and for the poor and outcast. […] He shows us just how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace.” (Laudato si’ 10) Such an complex and demanding task requires a proactive and effective collaboration, as well as visible communion, among the members of the Franciscan family. In our time, the contribution to this collaboration of the brothers and sisters of the Secular Franciscan Order is a particularly urgent necessity.

 

  1. A mutual care

Collaboration and communion among the members of the Franciscan family, today more than ever, must express itself in a reciprocity of care and mutual enrichment. “In Church Communion the states of life by being ordered one to the other are thus bound together among themselves. […] They are different yet complementary, in the sense that each of them has a basic and unmistakable character which sets each apart, while at the same time each of them is seen in relation to the other and placed at each other’s service. (Pope St. John Paul II, Christifideles laici, 55; italics original)

On the one hand, the Church has entrusted to the friars of the First Order and TOR the spiritual and pastoral care of the OFS, as is recalled in the Rule: “As a concrete sign of communion and co- responsibility, the councils on various levels, in keeping with the constitutions, shall ask for suitable and well prepared religious for spiritual assistance. They should make this request to the superiors of the four religious Franciscan families, to whom the Secular Fraternity has been united for centuries.” (OFS Rule, chapter III, n. 26)

On the other hand, those belonging to the OFS are called to express the secular aspect of the Franciscan charism, which is what characterizes their spirituality and apostolic life, living fully their specific call, supporting also by their prayer and action the vocation of the friars with whom they share the charism.

 

  1. Conclusion

Dear sisters and brothers, on this fortieth anniversary of the approval of the Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order, we invite you to thank the Lord for the gift of our common Franciscan vocation and to renew your apostolic zeal that each might live his or her own mission in a creative way.

For our part we ask for all of you an abundance of divine blessings through the intercession of the our Seraphic Father St. Francis and the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of the Franciscan family.

 

Fr. Roberto Genuin, OFMCap
Minister Generalis

Fr. Nicholas Polichnowski, TOR
Minister Generalis

Fr. Marco Tasca, OFMConv
Minister Generalis

Fr. Michael Anthony Perry, OFM
Minister Generalis

 

Romae, 23 XII 2018

 

 

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Celebration of the Antonianum University and the Grand Chancellor 2019

From Monday 14th  to Tuesday 15th January 2019, on the occasion of the traditional Feast Day of the University and the Grand Chancellor, the international congress of “Francis of Assisi: from patron saint of Italy to patron saint of promoters of ecology” took place.

During the session on 14th January, after the introductory greetings by Fabien Revol on behalf of the “Jean Bastaire” Chair of the Université Catholique de Lyon, Mirko Santanicchia presented the nineteenth-century rediscovery of the saint of Assisi and Francis at the crossroads: Vir Catholicus or “Alter Orpheus”. This was followed by Rosa Giorgi who spoke on the iconography of Saint Francis between peace and ecology.

On the morning of 15th January, the Pontifical Antonianum University conferred a doctorate in theology honoris causa on Professor Carlo Paolazzi.

Many reasons led to the granting of this prestigious honour, all linked to his unique expertise and achievements in the field of teaching and research.

The award which was previously granted by the Franciscan University to only Gabriele Maria Allegra, on 17th January 1955, and Cesare Cenci, on 16th January 2007, began with the Laudatio “In memoria et devocione sancti patris.” Carlo Paolazzi witness to friar Francis, proclaimed by Attilio Bartoli Langeli. Then the Vicar General of the Order of Friars Minor and Vice-Grand Chancellor of the Pontifical Antonianum University Julio César Bunader addressed the assembly and presented the award.

The ceremony concluded with Carlo Paolazzi’s lectio magistralis: “The praise of God the Creator and the ‘Canticle of Brother Sun.’”

Letter to the Custody in Morocco on the Feast of the Holy Martyrs of Marrakech

My dear Brother Custos, Br. Manuel,
and all the Brothers of the Custody in Morocco,

May peace the Lord be upon you!

Today we commemorate the occasion of the 800th anniversary of the Holy Martyrs of Marrakech, the first martyrs of the Order of Friars Minor. Burning zeal for the Gospel, and the hope of transmitting the Good News of Jesus Christ, of God’s love and mercy for the world and for each and every human person, was at the heart of the mission undertaken by these five Brothers of the Order. We know that their death inspired many young men to join the Order. Chief among these was Anthony of Lisbon, later to be known as the Saint of Padua, who entered the Order with the same burning desire to live the Gospel and to go among Muslims and unbelievers to share the message of Jesus Christ. It is this burning desire for love of God and all human beings that has inspired and sustained our missionary presence in Morocco these past 800 years.

This occasion also gives rise to a serious call for us to reflect on the nature of missionary evangelization in the light of authentic religious freedom and of the importance of humility, being willing to listen and learn from others through patient and lifelong dialogue and to recognize in them, most especially our Muslim neighbors (cf. CCGG, 95, §3), that they indeed are our brothers and sisters. A further step towards this deeper understanding of what it means to live among other believers and “nonbelievers” would be for us both to study and to integrate St. Francis’ insight into religious freedom and the mysterious ways of God, who is at work in all times, among all peoples and in all circumstances of life (cf. CCGG, 93, §§1-2). in Chapter XVI of the Regula non bullata, our Seraphic Brother provides us with a method for initiating and continuing to live the Gospel in a radical manner, and for sharing the experience of what it means to enter into a deep and abiding experience with God with others:

As for the brothers who go, they can live spiritually among the Saracens and nonbelievers in two ways. One way is not to engage in arguments or disputes but to be subject to every human creature for God’s sake and to acknowledge that they are Christians. The other way is to announce the Word of God, when they see it pleases the Lord…

These words were written after the events of the martyrdom we commemorate today. They provide us with a specific direction to how we are to conduct ourselves as missionary-disciples of the risen Lord Jesus. What is more, in a certain sense they also anticipate the Church’s reflection on the nature of religious freedom later found in Nostra aetatae, paragraph 1, where we read:

One is the community of all peoples, one their origin, for God made the whole human race to live over the face of the earth. One also is their final goal, God. His providence, His manifestations of goodness, His saving design extend to all men, until that time when the elect will be united in the Holy City, the city ablaze with the glory of God, where the nations will walk in His light.

Today, we Friars Minor recommit ourselves to embracing Francis’ own burning desire to share his experience of God’s love and mercy with others, an experience that led him to embrace all people as brothers and sisters – children of God and members of God’s one family, called to pursue the path of holiness, justice, peace, and goodness towards all living things.

May the Spirit of God who moved over the waters at creation, who raised up holy Prophets, who sent the God’s beloved Son Jesus into the world so that all might share in the dignity and holiness in which all have been formed and towards which all are destined, lead and guide you and all of the Brothers of the Order to “be subject to every human creature for God’s sake (RnB, 16).” May you live in authentic humility of spirit, convinced of the redeeming message of Jesus Christ and committed to walking together along the path of justice and peace. May this commemoration of the Five Holy Martyrs of Marrakech provide all Brothers with a moment in which we might give thanks and recommit ourselves to following in the footprints of our Lord Jesus Christ.

With every best wish and blessing to you all on this special day, and in fraternal support of your service to the Good News of Jesus Christ, I remain,

Rome, 16 January 2019
Feast of the Holy Martyrs of Marrakech

Fraternally,

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

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Exchange of Greetings between the Ecumenical Patriarch and the OFM Minister General on the Occasion of the Feast of St. Andrew

On the 20th of December 2018, the Minister General, Br. Michael A. Perry, OFM received a warm reply to the greeting he had sent (PDF in French) to His Holiness Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople, Ecumenical Patriarch.

The Patriarch wrote:

“As is the case every year, it is with great joy and heartfelt delight that we exalt this most esteemed Apostle; him, who through God’s divine providence became the founder, protector and guardian of the centuries-old Holy and Great Church of Christ; him, who was the first to bring the radiant light of Christ to Byzantium; and him, who was the first to bless the land that would later become the Roman Empire’s triumphant capital in the East.”

“The martyric and apostolic Church of Constantinople – the Church of the Ecumenical Councils and the First Throne of Orthodoxy – is, indeed, established upon the very words that were preached by this venerable and God-bearing Apostle; that is to say, it is rooted in the authentic continuation of the Lord’s veritable teachings as evangelized by His righteous disciples and apostles, and steadfastly preserved by the Holy Fathers throughout the ages. “

The Ecumenical Patriarch ended the letter by thanking Br. Michael for his “kind wishes and thoughtful sentiments” and extended his “wholehearted prayers and greetings” to all the brothers of the Order. (Complete text in English: PDF).

 

In the footsteps of St. Francis:  The Holy Father marks the anniversary of the encounter between St. Francis and the Sultan

On January 7th, 2018, during an address on multilateral diplomacy given to members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, Pope Francis referred to the 1219 meeting between St. Francis of Assisi and the Sultan as a model for interreligious dialogue.

“Even though ‘over the centuries many quarrels and dissensions have arisen between Christians and Muslims’, in different areas of the Middle East they have long lived together in peace.  In the near future, I will have occasion to visit two predominantly Muslim countries, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates.  These represent two important opportunities to advance interreligious dialogue and mutual understanding between the followers of both religions, in this year that marks the eight-hundredth anniversary of the historic meeting between Saint Francis of Assisi and Sultan al-Malik al-Kāmil.” (Full text: VaticanNews.va)

Pope Francis will visit Morocco from March 30th to 31st, 2018, and will meet Muslim civil and religious leaders.

 

 

 

 

 

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