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Irish friar posthumously awarded Zimbabwe’s highest honour


An Irish Franciscan friar has been posthumously awarded the highest honour the Zimbabwean government can bestow on a foreigner, The Royal Order of Munhumutapa.

A native of Ballinacargy in Co Westmeath, Fr Paschal Slevin, who died in May aged 83, was being honoured by President Robert Mugabe’s government for his work for the people of Zimbabwe.

He joins six others in the Royal Order of Munhumutapa, five of them native states-men who led their African nations to independence.

A citation penned by vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa praises Fr Slevin for his anti-racist initiatives in local Catholic schools in 1966 and 1971.

These include the building of primary and secondary schools at Mt St Mary’s Mission in Wedza.

Here many students were subsidised by a special sponsorship fund established by the Franciscans under Fr Slevin’s leadership.

This enabled many to further their education at third level, qualifying them to take up key positions of influence in the new nation.

Fr Slevin’s attitude to the Liberation struggle was remembered as a pragmatic one.

The priest found himself caught between the laws laid down by the Rhodesian Regime and the demands of the liberation struggle.

The friar was also remembered for his compassion for his students in the schools he taught in.

He knew that many of the students from his schools were absconding to join the combatants and frequently delayed reporting them until they were safely on their way.

He facilitated staff from the hospital in Wedza to bring medical supplies to injured combatants after curfew.

In 1977, the Smith regime closed his schools, and expelled Fr Slevin and fellow-Franciscans from Rhodesia.

Fr Slevin returned three years later when Zimbabwe won independence.

For the next decade, leading the local branch of the Franciscans, he educated former guerrilla fighters and helped develop the local rural economy in Wedza, building a dam and grain storage silos and establishing a farmers’ co-op.

Seán Dunne | Irish Times

Photo: Frank Hand via herald.co.zw

For the complete text: www.irishtimes.com


Ramon Llull in Barcelona is antidote to terrorism

Isis and all that goes with it, including the recent attack in Barcelona are not a spontaneous deeds but rather are based on years of history. It is therefore necessary, in addition to immediate action of rescue and prevention, to do deeper cultural work that requires investment especially in education. The Catalan culture possesses antidotes to such an ideology of violence and death, and not only to defend herself but can also be effective in general. We are making reference to – as the Archbishop of Barcelona, Cardinal Juan José Omella mentioned several times – the Majorcan Ramon Llull, one of the first Catalan writers, that in the late thirteenth century wrote a veritable “ars,” or method, to move from a clash of ignorances to a dialogue about identity.

Below is a brief summary of Lullian thought from the readable and informative Raimundus christianus arabicus. Ramon Llull and the meeting of cultures (Velar, Gorle 2017).

Llull’s approach to the Muslim world is not anecdotal. It is difficult to find among the Christian theologians of his time anyone with a similar knowledge of Arabic and the Muslim religion. He knew both so well that in several of his works he refers to himself as “christianus arabicus,” taking on the model of the wise Christian Arabs who had disputed with Islam in previous centuries.

The bases of his project provide evidence of the inescapable necessity to accept the cultural elements of the interlocutor: to know and speak the languages of non-Christians and in particular Arabic. Llull’s goal is to present Christian doctrine in such a way that non-Christians can understand and accept it without difficulty.

This why Llull focuses his attention on Muslim thought. He writes original works in Arabic (such as The Logic of Al-Ghazali or The Book of Contemplation). Sadly we no longer have any copies of these two books. He adopts Arabian models in some of his writings (The Book of the Lover and the Beloved which claims Sufi inspiration, or The Hundred Names of God).

The difficulty of identifying the actual Arab influences on some aspects of Llull’s thought has to do with his propensity to shun the use of authority in his works. Nonetheless, it seems certain, for example, that he used an Arab source for structures of his Logica nova (1303): namely the Budd al-carif of the Muslim philosopher and theologian Ibn Sabcin di Múrcia (127/18-1269/71).

For further information see Sara Muzzi, Ramon Llull, Raimondo Lullo. Opere e vita straordinaria di un grande pensatore medievale, Edizioni Terra Santa, Milan 2016, p. 80, euro 8.00.

Source: www.assisiofm.it


US Franciscans look to future renewal with hope

The Provincial Ministers and members of the six Provincial Councils of the Franciscan Provinces of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Holy Name, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Sacred Heart, Saint Barbara and St. John the Baptist – over 40 friars in all – met at Mt. Alvernia Retreat in Wappingers Falls, New York from August 21-25, 2017. They continued their work planning the revitalization and restructuring of their six Provinces. This work has been on-going since they met as a group for the first time in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 2012.

After careful consideration, the six Provincial Ministers, in the midst of prayer and ritual on Wednesday morning, voted unanimously to place before simultaneous chapters of their six Provinces late next May a resolution requesting that the General Minister and his Definitorium restructure their fraternal governance so as to create one new province from the six provinces engaged in this process.

The friars were encouraged to pursue on-going renewal by taking time for prayer and reflection by Michael A. Perry, the General Minister of the Order of Friars Minor who came from Rome in order to be a part of the meeting.  Caoimhin O’Laoide, the English-speaking General Definitor of the Order spent the entire week with the friars and reflected powerfully for them at Thursday celebration of the Eucharist.

Fr. Michael went through the mechanics of the process which will follow the votes at the Provincial Chapters next May. As he outlined it, that process will include the appointment of an official Delegate of the General Minister who will conduct at least two visitations of the friars and those with whom they work in various ways. Those visitations will result in reports to be considered by the General Definitorium. After consideration of those reports, the General Minister and Definitorium will name an initial administration and set the time for the formal establishment of the new province, probably no earlier than the fall of 2022.

One of the next steps to advance the conversation will be a national survey of every friar in the six provinces regarding what they see as necessary to move the process forward. Before the vote of the six provinces next May, the Provincial Ministers will also invite their friars to attend one of two large regional gatherings of friars, as well as numerous other face-to-face gatherings of smaller groups, to participate in numerous local discussions of the proposal with materials prepared for use across the country. They will also make use of videos, YouTube, Facebook and other social media, to include friars who are unable to attend.

After the vote in May, the Ministers are already looking forward to gathering next summer to continue what everyone gathered in Wappingers Falls this year found to be an exciting and life-giving fresh start to Franciscan life in the United States.

For the complete text in English: usfranciscans.org

A Franciscan Rector for the Urbanianum University

Friar Leonardo Sileo, OFM is the new Rector of the Pontifical University Urbanianum. Following the regular election procedure, the Congregation for Catbolic Education on August 18, 2017 nominated the professor Friar LEONARDO SILEO, OFM Magnificent Rector of the Pontifical University Urbanianum.

Friar Leonardo belongs to the Province of the Immaculate Conception of the Friars Minor of Salerno (Italy); he resides at the Antonianum and for several years has been an Ordinary Professor of History of Medieval Philosophy at the Faculty of Philosophy of the Pontifical University Urbanianum; he also teaches at the Pontifical University Antonianum, in the Faculty of Philosophy, Theology and the ISRR.

The Pontifical University Urbanianum has a long history: it was founded by Pope Urban VIII in 1627, as the Pontificumo Collegium Urbanum De Propaganda Fide, under the control of the similarly named Congregation of Propaganda Fide. In 1962, Pope John XIII changed its name to Pontificia Università Urbaniana, maintaining its ties to the Congregation for the Evangelization of peoples, whose Prefect is, ex officio, Grand Chancellor of the University.

From its origins the Urbanianum has always given particular attention to the Missions and to the formation of missionaries and clergy from the Missions. Presently the Urbanianum has 5 Schools (faculties): Philosophy, Theology, Canon Law, Missiology e Languages. It also has the Higher Institute of Catechesis and Missionary Spirituality, which is also a Higher Institute of Religious Sciences with a special formation program in Missiology.

We would like to offer a heartfelt congratulations to the new Rector!

Latin American Continental Congress for Formators

The Formators’ Congress of the four Latin American Conferences was held in São Paulo, Brazil from September 3-9, 2017. 65 formators from all the entities of each Conference – Guadalupana (Mexico and Central America), Brazilian, Bolivarian and the ConoSur. – participated in the Congress. The theme of the Congress was “Accompaniment in Community Life.”

The Congress began with the Eucharist celebrated by Br. Fidenzio Vanboemmel, Provincial Minister of the Province of the Immaculate Conception, in whose territory the Congress took place. On the first day Br.  Caesar Vaiani, Secretary General for Formation and Studies spoke on “Mutual Accompaniment in Fraternal Life”; next day Br. Sinisa Balajic, the Vice-Secretary, presented “Lifelong Formation as an Accompaniment in Ordinary Life”; on the third day Br. Bernardo Brandao, Minister of the Province of Our Lady of the Assumption in Brazil spoke of “The Guardian, Companion of Fraternal Life: His Role and His Formation” and finally, on the fourth day, Br. Ramiro de La Serna, of the Argentinian Province of San Francisco Solano, explained the relationship between ongoing formation and vocation animation.

The Congress used an important methodology consisting of study groups which process some reflections and proposals that are then shared so that at the end of the Conference a “statement of intent” can be formulated to offer help to the work of formators in the Provinces.

This Conference is the second in a series of six Conferences that will be celebrated from 2017 to 2019 on the same subject of accompaniment in community life, in obedience to the decisions of the last General Chapter.

The Election of Br. Jürgen Neitzert as Definitor General

Br. Jürgen Neizert, OFM, (Province of St. Elizabeth, Germany) was elected Definitor General on Monday, September 11th, 2017, serving until the end of this sexennium. Br. Jürgen was born in Mayen, Germany, on July 1st, 1959. He received the Franciscan habit on October 4th, 1978, made First Profession on October 4th, 1979, and made Solemn Profession as a member of the Province of the Holy Magi, Cologne, on November 19th, 1982. Br. Jürgen is a nurse by profession, and in 2006 he completed studies in philosophy and sociology, holding Masters degrees in philosophy and Islamic Studies from Cologne University. In 2008, he concluded studies in inter-cultural pedagogy. He has served as Provincial Definitor, has ministered in Initial Formation, and has for many years been engaged in various initiatives and projects in the field of Justice, Peace, and the Integrity of Creation. He has been a member of the Order’s international committee on ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue since 2015.

We warmly congratulate Br. Jürgen and pray that his service to all the friars of the Order will be fruitful and fulfilling.

Lithuanian Franciscan Friars’ Extraordinary Expedition to Siberia

The Lithuanian Franciscans organized an extraordinary expedition to Siberia (Russian Federation) on August 13-25, 2017. A group of 12 people travelled to the land of tundra where thousands of Lithuanians were exiled and imprisoned during the Soviet regime. Crosses found on the graves were those which have best flourished in this land of eternal frost and snow during the 1950’s and 1960’s.

The main aim of this journey was to honor and memorialize Fr. Augustinas Dirvele, OFM who was repressed by the Soviets after the occupation of Lithuania. Fr. Augustinas, with many intellectuals, scientists and priests, was convicted and taken to this land of Gulags, where he died as a martyr of faith.

Born in 1901, Fr. Augustinas was one of the most influential people in Kretinga during the interwar period. He established St. Anthony High School, constructed a grotto of Lourdes in honor of Our Lady in Kretinga, established a Franciscan printing office and served as Provincial Minister of St. Casimir Province in Lithuania from 1936 to 1939. Fr. Augustinas also founded the congregation of the Sisters of St. Francis of Our Lady of Perpetual Help to help the friars in their missions. He was a famous preacher and missionary.

Fr. Augustinas was arrested on July 12, 1940 while trying to cross the USSR-Germany border. He was then sentenced to eight years of imprisonment and work in the Kosju Gulag (Pechora region). How he died isn’t clear. Some witnesses say that he escaped from the gulag and disappeared. It may also be that he died in Taiga or was mauled by bears. The August 2017 expedition travelled to that place in order to build a cross in remembrance of Fr. Augustinas Dirvele OFM.

The group consisted of Provincial Minister Fr. Algirdas Malakauskis, Provincial Vicar Fr. Andrius Nenenas, Director of the Franciscan Gymnasium, Fr. Alvydas Virbalis, other representatives from the gymnasium, Sr. Grazina Dapsauskyte from the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Francis of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Monika Midveryte, Coordinator of Communications and several other lay people.

The travelers flew to Moscow and then took a train north from Moscow to Vorkuta. Their first stop was in the city Pechora, where a metal cross for Fr Augustinas Dirvele was made. The next day was the most important day of the expedition. The group travelled further north and reached the village of Kosju, where Fr. Augustinas had been exiled. They explored the surroundings of Kosju and eventually decided to build a cross in an old cemetery of prisoners. After building the cross the group celebrated Holy Mass and prayed for all the victims of the Soviet regime and for all people of Russia. During the homily, the Friars again remembered Fr. Augustinas, who remained faithful to his Franciscan vocation until the end:  he consoled and encouraged his fellow prisoners, heard confessions, and celebrated Mass. Fr. Augustinas accepted the suffering as an inseparable part of the Franciscan vocation and human life.

A New International Novitiate in Ireland

On the 14th August four novices were received into the new International Novitiate in the friary in Killarney, Ireland: Daraigh Quinn, Drew Keeley, and Philip McMahon – all Irish and Edvinas Jurgutis from Lithuania.

The following day, the Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady, there was a Solemn Opening of the new International Novitiate. The friary, which over many years had been the Novitiate of the Irish Franciscans, is now an inter-provincial Novitiate, with Novices coming from Ireland, Great Britain, Germany and Holland.

At the ceremony of inauguration at the friary the Principal Celebrant of the Mass was Fr Antony Jukes, the Novice Director. Taking part were Friars Rob Hoogenboom (Holland), Cornelius Bohl (Germany), Patrick Lonsdale (Great Britain), Andrius Dobravolskas (Lithuania), Aidan McGrath (Ireland).  The Homily was preached by Fr Caoimhin O’Laoide (Definitor General, Rome).

The newly appointed community at the Friary are Friars Liam McCarthy, Guardian, Antony Jukes, Vicar, Chris Connolly, Claus Scheifele OFM from Germany, Lars Frendel from Sweden, and P.J. Brady.

The Friary in Killarney celebrates 150 years this year – opened in 1867. After 150 years it is a happy event that it now becomes an Inter Provincial Novitiate House of the Order.

On the Footsteps of the Récollets: Canadian Friars on Pilgrimage

 While making their way through the streets of old Quebec City a group of Friars paused for a brief history lesson as they had done several times in the days previous. This time, however, next to them was a logo that read: “Guardians of the Past, Custodians of the Future.” It seemed to summarize the journey that was coming to an end.

This group of Friars was made up of thirteen who came from across Canada to journey together for one week August 6 – 13, 2017 in pilgrimage with the theme “On the Footsteps of the Récollets.” The Récollets are pioneering and missionary Franciscans that came to Canada with Samuel de Champlain in 1615. This pilgrimage, crafted by Guylain Prince, OFM, weaved its way through several communities, parks and national sites to tell their story and help the Friars of Canada today understand their roots.

The pilgrimage began in Trois-Rivières, where Blessed Frédéric Janssoone, OFM is buried; then traveled north to the Gaspé Peninsula, where St. Bonaventure Island attracts tourists the world over; and then continued south into Quebec City, where the Récollets history is honored in a monument in the city square; concluding once again in Trois-Rivières, near the very site of the second Mass recorded in Canada.

Over the week together the Friars discovered not only breath-taking scenery and warm hospitality, but also fascinating stories about shipwrecks, ministry among the First Nations, artistic and carpentry skills, leadership abilities, spirituality, contemplation and the fraternal spirit of the Récollets. The missionary spirit of the Récollets struck a chord with the pilgrim Friars and challenged them to ponder their own Franciscan calling. The thirteen Friars were also taken by the hope the Récollets had, their openness and courage to be missionary and their perseverance that served as a driving force. The Friars discovered that this learning from our history leads to greater understanding today and provides hope for the future that is guided by the same Spirit that guided their brother Récollets and the process of becoming one Canadian province.

The Friars traveled together in three vehicles, setting up camp each night, enjoyed culinary adventures and much time together. It is indeed as agents of evangelisation, trusting in God’s providence, and appreciating the dignity of all, that these pilgrim Friars move from this pilgrimage to their realities as “Guardians of the Past, Custodians of the Future.”

To read more: http://www.franciscanfriars.ca/history/in-the-footsteps-of-the-recollets/


2017 Interfranciscan Missionary Program

The Minister General, Br. Michael Anthony Perry, OFM, visited the Mission Formation Program in Brussels on 8-10 September 2017. This year, there are ten friars from the three branches of the Order (Capuchins, Conventuals, and OFMs) who are living and studying together. The course is in English and offers an opportunity to the friars to: (a) deepen their awareness of the missionary dimension of their Christian and Franciscan vocation; (b) learn about contemporary issues related to missionary evangelization, ecumenical and ecumenical dialogue, Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation, and other related issues; and (c) experience a deeper sense of prayer and fraternity and also inter-obediential living among the three Orders. The course also helps the missionaries and other friars who use this experience as part of ongoing formation to deepen the human and interpersonal dimensions of our lives. Prayer and Eucharist serve as the spiritual powerhouse for the program. For more information, please visit the web site of the Mission program, Notre Dame des Nations.

Friars who are interested in participating in this 3-month course, which includes a pilgrimage to the Franciscan sights, should contact Bro. Luis Gallardo, General Secretary for Missions and Evangelization (lgallardo@ofm.org). This program is, according to the Minister General, one of the best formation programs for the practice of missionary evangelization that the Order has to offer. He encourages friars to consider participating in this program. There are two sessions annually: September – November (English language); and March-May (French language).

The Cry of the Earth, the Cries of the Poor in JPIC dimension: The 5th JPIC Continental Meeting of the Americas

The 5th JPIC Continental Meeting of the Americas was held in September 1-8, 2017 in Anápolis, Brazil under the theme of “The Cry of the Earth, the Cries of the Poor in JPIC dimension”. Around 40 participants have participated including not only friars but also other members of the Franciscan Family. The objective of the Meeting is to keep on the commitments of the guidelines given by the previous Continental Meeting 2014 in Bogotá, as well as to show the priorities issued by the International JPIC Council 2016 in Verona, namely: Migration, Mining, and New Lifestyle. It was also a space to share the works around the JPIC values carried out in each entity and also a time of on-going formation for JPIC animators.

Koinonia 2017 – 2 N. 94

The Spiritual Assistants of OFS/ YOUFRA and all Franciscans can now download the latest issue of Koinonia of 2017, “Living the Franciscan charism in today’s world.”


From May 29 to June 2 was held a “Capitolo generalissimo” of all the Franciscan families of Umbria to commemorate the fifth centenary of Ite vos. The “prophecy of fraternal communion” is what has been experienced and activated in Foligno, in the knowledge that there is no truth, nor Christian credibility in a spirituality that does not become fraternal communion. It would mean that we Franciscans have yet a long way to walk on the footprints of Francis. The present study is a humble attempt to understand the meaning of fraternal bonds in the life of a secular Franciscan.First we will go through the life and Writings of Francis and then will take up the Rule and Constitutions of OFS.

Conferences Celebrating 800 years of Franciscan Presence in the Holy Land

There has been an official Franciscan presence in the Holy Land since 1217. Following decisions taken at the Pentecost General Chapter held at the Portiuncula on May 14th, 1217, several friars were sent there as missionaries.

Tradition tells us that the first friars arrived at the Crusader gate in Acre. They were under the direction of Br. Elias, who because of this is considered to be the first Minister Provincial of Syria, or the Holy Land, or Ultra Mare — the names give to this entity in the first century of its history.

In addition to Eucharistic Celebrations, St. Saviour’s Monastery in Jerusalem will also host well-known Conference speakers at a Conference being held to celebrate this event from October 16th to 18th, 2017.

A PDF gives details of the program in English and Italian.

Goods and Minority: legal, fiscal and managerial profiles of Church Entities and the third sector  


The Higher Institute of Religious Science “Redemptor Hominis”  of the Pontifical University of the Antonianum is organizing at its centre in Rome the Advanced Formation Course: Goods and Minority: legal, fiscal and managerial profiles of Church Entities and the third sector.   It is an important Formation event and useful study to ensure that indispensable economic vision for a management of goods that is consistent with the values and spirituality of the entities in question.



The strongly practical didactic methodology allows participants to attain both a knowledge of the legal and economic problems as well as possession of the necessary tools to approach and to solve a wide variety of situations, both ordinary and extraordinary, typical of the management of an ecclesiastical body and of the third sector.

The lessons will be aim, moreover, to bring out the capacity to understand and deal with the diverse circumstances of the management sphere to sustainability, that is to the reduction of inequalities and the increase of socio-environmental responsibility both present and future, in order to favour the understanding, promotion and attainment of the values of gratuity, solidarity and the common good, which are indispensable to the creation of economic models and structures which are inclusive and render us more human.


Target group

The course is aimed at:

  • Managers and bursars of ecclesiastical bodies and in the third sector.
  • Collaborators, business consultants and managers in businesses, bodies and institutions which co-operate with the third sector are engaged in the field of business ethics.
  • Young graduates.
  • Voluntary organizations, Sports and Social organizations.


Length and Mode of learning

The course is a biennial one will have 48 days of classroom lessons, spread out over 2 annual sessions, each lasting a total of 4 weeks, for a total of 60 ECTS.

The two annual sessions will in 2018 take place, from 22nd January to 3rd February and from 25th June to 7th July; and in 2019, from 22nd January to 2nd February and from  24th June to 6th July.


Participation and further information

To enrol it is necessary to complete the form on the link below. For further information, for example on the entrance requirements, you can send an e-mail to either of the following e-mail addresses  issr@antonianum.eu o sviluppo@antonianum.eu or telephone the following numbers 0670373502 e 0670373527.


Sent out to the whole world


From the Conclusion of the document Ite, nuntiate:  Guidelines for New Forms of Life and Mission in the Order of Friars Minor.  


The Spirit calls on those in Consecrated Life to “develop and put into effect new evangelization initiatives for contemporary situations” (VC 73). This clearly means that new ways, new symbols, and new methods must be found that will allow the people of our time to come into relationship with the Gospel, something which is essential if we are not to be left out of the march of history and culture, both of which are in a continual process of change. Fraternities that are “short-term” and experimental are needed — ways of being present that are strongly theocentric, yet lovingly connected to the deep needs of the human person. The lifestyle of our fraternities must once again demonstrate the power of witness, and proclaim a clear message.

Many Friars within the Order are ready to risk entering into real dialogue with our society, ready to be itinerant in the cause of mission, driven by their passion for God and their compassion for the human person. They wish to do this without losing their connection with people of every kind. But how can we liberate these friars from the desperate worry of keeping existing structures going? How can we get beyond the struggle for survival, and overcome the fear that a certain kind of institution is about to end? How can new forms of presence be formed without affecting the unity of an Entity? How can the cozy lethargy that paralyses the many friars and Provinces be overcome? Pope Francis reminds us that: “The culture of prosperity deadens us” (EG 54).

Non-institutional fraternities have already been established which can also be termed ‘Itinerant’, ‘Inter-Provincial’, ‘International’, ‘Inter-Obediential’, and ‘Inter-Religious’. There are fraternities that work in collaboration with the laity, fraternities where listening, being evangelized, and being committed to mission are kept in balance. These initiatives have taken place on a sporadic basis, but are likely to become building blocks for the future – combining to make up a mosaic of new approaches.

According to Goethe, “Europe was born in pilgrimage, and its mother tongue is Christianity”. The Franciscan movement was also born in Gospel mobility, moving throughout Europe and the whole world. Why not recuperate this evangelical agility and boldness by promoting Inter-Provincial and International Fraternities? We are called to move from the rationale of conservation and survival to thinking in terms of free gift — from a strategy of being closed in and waiting, to being daring in our openness to encounter. In the life of every friar, within every Fraternity, Province and the Order, we are called to constantly reconcile the tension between being prophets and being in communion; between choosing newness and valuing continuity. Daring to establish new forms of life and evangelization does not mean devaluing what has already been done, or is currently being done, but simply means “developing new responses … new projects of evangelization for the situations of today” (VC 73). The criterion for the authenticity of every form of evangelization (whether new or already existing), is not survival or comfort, but rather whether our lifestyle is consistent with the Gospel and the Rule — “consistency between preaching and life” (VC 85).

Every region and culture needs to find signs of renewal, and a point of reference, in the Franciscan Friars who make up these courageous and prophetic small Fraternities. The message of Pope Francis is stirring and very real; it acts as a stimulus, and gives us hope. The whole world has been woken up by the witness of this Pope who really believes in the relevance of our charism when it is lived among people in fraternity and minority; but do we friars really believe this?

Fr. Giacomo Bini, OFM




Exibition of Giotto’s frescoes in St. Savior Monastery, Jerusalem


The Legend of St. Francis Exhibition Giotto’s frescoes in the Upper Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi


The “Legend of St. Francis” is a cycle of frescoes painted by Giotto di Bondone between 1290 and 1295. It represents the scenes from the Legenda Maior (1263), the work of St. Bonaventure, which constituted the official biography of St. Francis.

The cycle consists of 28 large rectangular wall paintings that occupy the lower part of the walls of the Upper Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, a direct thematic reminder of the Old and New Testament Stories of the two upper levels. The life of St. Francis is thus a sort of Imitatio Christi (Imitation of Christ).

This is the work where Giotto’s artistic genius unfolds, lit and fuelled by the charisma of Francis of Assisi. The crediting of the work to Giotto is still debated, but scholars, after decades of studies, are now ready to confirm it by the unmistakable way of organizing the scenes, the mastery of the intuitive perspective in the backgrounds, the realism, and the eloquence of gestures and physiognomies.


Dates: MAY – OCTOBER 2017

St. Saviour Monastery, Jerusalem
1, St. Francis Street

Opening times: Monday to Friday 8:30 am to 5:00 pm – Saturday 8:30 am to 12:00 pm

Franciscan Colors

To speak of the color of the habits worn by Franciscans (men and women inspired by the charism of Francis of Assisi) is not an easy task. Throughout the centuries, the families of the first Order – that of the “friars minor” – adopted gray and brown colors (in many shades: light, dark, chestnut, reddish) … and even black.

There are new male and female congregations that even wear blue in honor of the B. V. Mary. Obviously, color has always had a symbolic energy that serves as a reminder of the spiritual identity of the group. What did Francis think about the color of the habit?

In the Rule, Francis does not prescribe any specific color for the habit of his penitential followers, rather he invites them to “wear humble garments,” to “dress in cheap clothing.” A biographer remembers the poor man of Assisi praising the lark: “Its plumage is earthy. It gives example to religious women and men that they should not have elegant and fine attire, but rather wear dull colors, like that of the earth”. Towards 1240, an English chronicler speaks of friars minor wearing “long gray robes “. In the Constitutions of Narbonne (1260), St. Bonaventure, who was General Minister, prescribes that the friars never wear black or white.

The Friars Minor Conventual up to the constitutions of 1803 were bound to wear ashen gray, but in1823 black began to prevail.

The Friars  Minor Observant underwent the official move from gray to brown habits at the 1895 Assisi Chapter when Leo XIII gathered the various families of the Observance into the “Friars Minor” (Reformed, Alcantarins, Recollects, etc.).

The Friars Minor Capuchin, in 1912, decided on their present chestnut color.

The color of the habit of the Franciscan families of the First Order expresses the birth and the evolution of currents within the Franciscan family. Until 1517, the Franciscan family, born in 1209, was a juridical one, governed by a single General Minister, considered by all to be the direct successor of Saint Francis. In that year, Leo X gave lawful independence to the Observance movement, initiated by a lay friar of Saint Francis at Foligno in 1368, obliging the General Minister of the primitive family to deliver the official seal of the Order to the General Minister of the Observance. Leo X decreed that the new family came directly from the ancient and original one.  Canon Law has never revised that history!

The Capuchins (1525) arising from the Observants, faced opposition on various fronts. Under the legal protection of the Conventuals, the Order gained legal independence in 1628.

Pasquale MagroSource: www.sanfrancescopatronoditalia.it

The Reception in the Order of the Eremitical Life Proposed by Francis:  Alternating between Hermitage and City


An excerpt from the document Listen, and You Will Live: Guidelines for the Establishment of a Hermitage Fraternity or a House of Prayer

 The life of Francis of Assisi has been described as a pattern of alternating between Hermitage and City[1] and, according to the saint’s hagiographers, the Fraternitas of lesser ones had to address the question of how to live early on.  In fact, Thomas of Celano in the Vita beati Francisci states that they wondered what kind of life they should choose; “whether they should live among people or go off to solitary places.” St. Francis “chose not to live for himself alone, but for the one who died for all. For he knew that he was sent for this: to win for God souls which the devil was trying to snatch away.[2]” From this it appears that there was no tension between contemplation and preaching, but that these alternated — and this not only as a fraternitas, but personally in the life of the saint: “That is why he often chose solitary places to focus his heart entirely on God. But he was not reluctant, when he discerned the time was right, to involve himself in the affairs of his neighbors, and attend to their salvation.”[3] The wish of Francis was “to divide the time given him to merit grace and, as seemed best, to spend some of it to benefit his neighbors and use the rest in the blessed solitude of contemplation” and he used to take “with him only a few companions—who knew his holy way of living better than others—so that they could shield him from the interruption and disturbance of people, respecting and protecting his silence in every way.[4]

Bonaventure, in the Vita beati Francisci (the Legenda Maior), took up what was said by Thomas of Celano about the question of whether Francis should give himself to contemplation or to preaching, but concludes by saying that Francis’ response was that it should be preaching: “[…] the will of God was that he, the herald of Christ, should go out and preach.”  A different position is taken by Peter John Olivi, who expresses himself in very balanced terms and in fidelity to the substance of what was the original inspiration for the original Fraternitas of lesser ones.  He declares that the more perfect life is that of Christ, the Apostles and of St. Francis, in which some of the time is dedicated to eremitical solitude, and some to preaching[5].

Bernardine of Siena says of St. Francis: “Christ took on a mixed life, attending to God and to neighbor.  […] So likewise did St. Francis […] who considered both God and man, giving part of the time to one and then to the other.[6]  The way of life attributed by Bernadine to Francis was the model of life for the Friars Minor of the Observance, so it is not surprising that in 1457 Girolamo da Udine wrote about John Capistran, his preaching companion, following the latter’s death the previous year: “the whole of his life was transformed into action. It was expressed either in prayer, preaching, reading, or worthwhile activities.  Nothing can convince me that a more blessed man could be found, being able to practice contemplation in activity, or taking action during contemplation.[7]

While discussing the way of “alternation”, we should also make reference to Peter of Alcantara (1499-1562), who successfully promoted reform in the Order, recalling the friars to their Franciscan origins.  His numerous writings, the best known of which is a Treatise on Prayer and Meditation, are proof of his exceptional holiness of life.  Peter is known for the extraordinary example of his life, and the very high degree of contemplation, personal austerity and mystical gifts with which God favored him.[8] He says in the Treatise that “the servant of God must consecrate some certain time of the day to recollection. But now, besides the ordinary course, they must sometimes liberate themselves from all business and employments, as much as is possible, and give themselves over wholly to devotion, the better to nourish their soul with the abundance of spiritual food, recovering the daily losses due to their shortcomings, and gaining a new force to go forward on the spiritual journey.[9]

The Capuchin Mattia Bellintani da Salò in the Life, Death and Miracles of the Blessed Felice da Cantalice says that “he was an intermediary between the world and religion, taking to one the needs of the other, and bringing the provisions of the other in return. Thus, he was an intermediary between God and human beings, offering their needs to God, and bringing graces from Him to them”[10]. For the hagiographer, being an intermediary or “go-between” also characterizes the personal lifestyle of St. Felix of Cantalice: “He shared out nighttime and daytime; the night he gave to God, the day to his neighbor, and in both he was similarly sanctified.[11]

The example of these saints not only influenced the lifestyle the friars adopted, but also colored the stories told by hagiographers. For example, Pacifico da Rimini narrates The Life and Heroic Virtues of the Venerable Father Leopold da Gaiche who, following St. Leonard of Port Maurice, popularized the Way of the Cross, desiring that through it people be brought to new life. Pacifico writes that Leopold “had the occupations of the day and night wisely arranged” and remarks on how he fulfilled the different offices of the sisters Martha and Mary to their mutual advantage.[12]

In the twentieth century, the practice of alternating between contemplative life and preaching is seen as a crucial aspect of Franciscan life. For example, Gerardo Cardaropoli, writing of Fr. Gabriele Allegra, says: “What is the essential charism of the Franciscan vocation? Fr. Gabriele has spelled it out often: the relationship between its contemplative roots and its embodiment in the apostolate — contemplation, understood as seeking the will of God, and the apostolate as a concretization of the mandate received.” A prayer to Blessed Leopold da Gaiche speaks of his seeking the Lord in solitude and working for salvation in the midst of God’s people. This prayer, according to Fr. Gabriele Allegra, indicates “his life plan”, or “the four graces” of the Franciscan charism — that is, holiness; the apostolate; wisdom; martyrdom. “In solitudine Deum quarere et in medio populi tui salutem operari …”[13]

[1] Cf. F. Accrocca, Dall’alternanza all’alternativa Eremo e città nel primo secolo dell’Ordine francescano: una rivisitazione attraverso gli scritti di Francesco e le fonti agiografiche, in Via spiritus 9 (2002), 7-60.

[2] 1Cel 35

[3] 1Cel 71

[4] 1Cel 91

[5] P. G. Olivi, Lectura super Matthaeum, cit. in G. L. Potestà, Storia ed escatologia in Ubertino da Casale, Milano, 1980, 214.

[6] Bernardino da Siena, Predica XLIV,47-48.56-57, in Id., Prediche volgari sul Campo di Siena 1427, a cura di C. Delcorno, II, Milano 1989, 1324-1327.

[7] G. da Udine, Vita di fra Giovanni da Capestrano, 11, Curia Provinciale dei Frati Minori – Convento S. Bernardino, L’Aquila 1988, 31-32.

[8] Postulazione Generale OFM, Frati Minori Santi e Beati, a cura di Silvano Bracci e Antonietta Pozzebon, Roma 2009, 233-235.

[9] San Pedro de Alcántara, Tratado de oración y meditación, Ed. Comunidad Franciscana del Palancar, El Palancar 2009, II parte, V capitulo, V aviso.

[10] Mattia da Salò, Vita, morte e miracoli del beato Felice da Cantalice, 8, a cura di V. Criscuolo, Istituto Storico dei Cappuccini, Roma 2013, 66. C. Calloni, Gli «stati» della riforma cappuccina (1528-1596), in Italia Francescana 84 (2009), 445-476 gives an account of the context of that work.

[11] Mattia da Salò, Vita, morte e miracoli del beato Felice da Cantalice, 13, 96.

[12] Della vita e delle eroiche virtù del Venerabile padre Leopoldo da Gaiche […] del p. Pacifico da Rimini dell’ordine stesso e alunno della medesima provincia, Tipografia Tommassini, Foligno 1835, 86

[13] G. Cardaropoli, P. Gabriele Maria Allegra un francescano del secolo XX, Ed. Porziuncola, Assisi 1996, 35-37.


What more do we know about the Tomb of Jesus since it was opened?

A Franciscan archaeologist was invited to the opening of the Tomb of Jesus. Although the restoration was not strictly an archaeological project, this expert on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre could draw some conclusions from what he saw.

Franciscan Father Eugenio Alliata, of the Custody of the Holy Land, is an archaeologist, professor at the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum in Jerusalem and an expert on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. He was present on the evening of October 26, 2016, when the marble slab, over what is believed to be the burial place of Jesus, was removed. It was only the second time since 1555 and the first time since 1809, that this most sacred of spaces for Christians, was visible. Father Alliata was able to observe and describe what he saw.

As on the two previous occasions, the exposure of the burial place was part of restoration work being done on the Edicule, the shrine which surrounds the original limestone of the Tomb. The project, begun in May 2016, was restricted to restoration, stabilization and preservation of the present-day Edicule. It did not involve an archaeological study on the Tomb itself.

What can be learned?

The restoration team precisely documented its work, which will be available for detailed study in the future. And while specialized archaeological observation of the rock on the north side of the burial chamber, of the so-called “funeral shelf,” would have been instructive, Father Alliata had to be satisfied with simple visual observations.

“The opening of the Tomb allowed us to understand the state of the Tomb, whereas the monk Maximos Simaios, the last one to have seen it in 1809 [when the present Edicule was under construction], only gave a cursory description of it,” Father Alliata said. “Really direct observation has confirmed and enriched this description. The measuring instruments, by themselves, did not allow us to have a perfect idea of it. Everything has to be verified by personal observation!”

What an archaeologist learned

The area directly over the spot revered as the place of Jesus’ burial is on the right-hand (north) side of the inner chamber of the Edicule. The actual burial place has been covered since 1809 by a marble slab, venerated by pilgrims over the centuries; Eucharist is regularly celebrated on this slab.

Cleared of all of its ornamentation, the wall of sculpted marble appears just as it was in 1809. Behind the image of the Resurrected Christ remains a portion of the north wall of what is believed to be inner chamber of the original Tomb. For proper study, archaeologists would have removed the marble down in order to inspect this side of the original stone.

Workers carefully lifted off the slab and removed the backfill beneath it, revealing a second marble slab, known to eyewitnesses in past centuries. When he entered the area Father Alliata could see and describe it: “Broken in two across its length, a cross carved into it and of a different marble. This slab probably goes back to the time of the Crusades. As to the cross, even though it is not all there, it looks like a cross from Lorraine.”

Earlier witnesses

Father Alliata recalled that Godfrey of Bouillon, the first Crusader ruler of Jerusalem, was from Lorraine, in France. He added, “According to the previous descriptions, its presence there was clear and obvious.”

The 19th-century Report on the Restoration of the Edicule of the Holy Sepulchre by Maximos Simaios, states, “the architect had confidence and, at my request, opened a part of the Holy Sepulchre […] and at the level of the stone of the tomb, […] having for a covering two slabs of marble, one on top of the other, on the northern side […] but the whole southern side of the most holy cave consisted of natural rock.”

Already in 1555, Boniface of Ragusa reported on a moment when “it was necessary to lift up one of the marble slabs which was covering the Sepulchre,” and when “the Sepulchre of the Lord came clearly into view, cut into the rock” (Liber de perenni cultu T.S., pp. 279-80, 26 August 1555).

Arculf, a Frankish bishop, who made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in the seventh century, also talks about this, 1,000 years earlier. The Irish bishop Adomnan of Iona sets down his own words in his De locis sanctis (1:2) in 670 describing a “small chamber cut into the rock where the covering is lower than the Sepulchre itself.”

Observing the original stone of the burial place

Just below this second slab, which was not removed, is a third level: the original stone. “According to the measuring instruments, the distance between the marble and the stone could reach a little over three feet [almost one meter] ,” said Father Alliata.

According to the archaeologist, Father Alliata, if one could expect to find the place of burial on the basis of ancient testimonies, the surprise in 2016 was “to find it so high up… There are about 35 centimeters [almost 14 inches] between the roof of the original rock and the modern pavement. It would be interesting to see how far down the soil is. This would allow us to better understand the structure of the chamber itself.”

Father Alliata regrets that at the time of the opening, archaeologists were not consulted about the methodology. “No archaeologist was there, neither Greek, nor Franciscan, nor Israeli – none.” Despite his disappointment, he continues to speculate, based on what he was able to observe when allowed into the space.

What type of Jewish tomb?

Jewish burial customs utilized different types of funeral chambers cut into the rock. But, as Father Alliata explained, “we are not certain about the kind that is in question here. Today, we can exclude the possibility of a kokhim tomb – literally ‘oven,’ in Hebrew – that is to say, a cavity dug into the rock the size of a body,” like a modern day loculus [a small shrine cavity].

His limited observations confirmed that the burial place was a “type of shelf-tomb on which the body was placed.” The structure would then be closer to an arcosolium, a niche surmounted by an arch cut into the rock. In this niche, on the shelf which is created as a result, one placed the body.

But Father Alliata also speculated the burial place could be a third type, different still. But he cautioned, “We would have to know many more details on what remains of the original rock to come to any viable conclusion.”

Despite his confidence that the “shelf” exposed beneath the marble slab was not a kokhim, his expert’s eye found the grotto is “too narrow” compared to a tomb with an arcosolium. Perhaps this structure is not “strictly one type or another.”

Another hypothesis is that of an unfinished tomb, suggested by the description in the Gospels that it was being used for the first time. Luke writes that “[Joseph] placed him in a sepulchre cut into the rock where no one had yet been” (Lk 23:53); and Matthew that “he put him in a new tomb which he had had cut into the rock” (Mt 27:60). This would explain why there might have been only one shelf on the side of a very narrow space, since it had not yet been fully dug out.

In Jerusalem, in the necropolis known as the Tomb of the Prophets on the Mount of Olives, there is a similarly narrow tomb (see photo below). Another example, also in Jerusalem, sheds light on this hypothesis: The necropolis of the Halceldama in the Valley of Gehenna contain “tombs with an arcosolium… with very narrow corridors,” explained Father Alliata.

More speculation

In addition to the type of tomb and its inner structure, experts also speculate if there were one or two spaces. Father Alliata noted, “The most ancient idea (and the one most widely shared) is the hypothesis that there would have been two spaces: the one where one wept and prepared the body and another where one placed the body. But the Gospel says the opposite: One could look into the tomb from the outside. This is the idea of Father Bagatti and of [Martin] Biddle: ‘This chamber was not closed off.’”

Another question for speculation: Do only the north and south walls remain? Who cut the funeral chamber in two? Some believe this destruction was done the Persians but Father Alliata refers to the pilgrim text: “Arculf in 670 spoke about the ceiling of this chamber. How would Arculf have seen it if the Persians had destroyed it in 614, 56 years earlier?”

A second phase of restoration—new opportunity?

The historic opening of the tomb answered some questions. Father Alliata will wait patiently for the documentation which the project director, Professor Antonia Moropoulou, will place at the disposition of researchers.

Is there a chance that one day, archaeologists might be able to bring their methodology to bear on the area around the Tomb? By March 22, the major work on the Edicule itself was concluded. However, Professor Moropoulou has already indicated to the leaders of the three major communities in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre that a second phase of work is necessary to stabilize the pavement around the Edicule.

The accumulation of moisture below the floor further threatens the Edicule. The pavement around the shrine must be removed for the space beneath to be stabilized. What opportunities such a second phase of the project might offer archaeologists remains unknown.

What is hopeful is the fruitful interchange between them and the restorers. Future collaboration would unite the efforts of these experts at the service of science toward a better understanding of this most famous Tomb.


Arianna Poletti/The Holy Land Review


Photo: Father Eugenio Alliata, OFM, Franciscan archaeologist, shows journalists a portion of the south wall of the original Tomb, between the metallic beam above and the newly-reconstructed wall of the Edicule. © Marie-Armelle Beaulieu/CTS



XII Course of Ongoing Formation on Ecumenical and Interreligious Dialogue in Istanbul

The International Fraternity of Istanbul and Izmir in Turkey, in collaboration with the General Secretariat for the Missions and Evangelization, is offering the friars and those interested of the Franciscan Family, a Continuing Education Course on Ecumenical and Interreligious Dialogue in Istanbul from 12 to 28 October 2017. The course will be given in Italian and Spanish.

The themes will be on Formation for Dialogue according to the Franciscan Charism; Ecumenical Dialogue: Islamic-Christian and Judeo-Christian. During the course there will also be a 3-day visit to the historical sites in Cappadocia.

The course fee is € 600.00. Those interested may send a request (no later than August 31, 2017) to:

Fr. Giancarlo Guastella, OFMfrategiancarlo@gmail.com

Fr. Robert Pascal, OFMpascalrobert764@gmail.com o vía fax + 90-212-2432791

The first 20 people registered will receive confirmation and the detailed program of the course. This course will also be given in English and French in October 2018.