Joachim Giermek, OFM Conv, the General Minister of the Conventuals, has responded to critics of the friars in Assisi after the recent publication of Pope Benedict’s motu proprio:
“Many of these reputed experts seem not to have even read the document, or cared about what it contained. It was widely reported that the present Holy Fathers intention in the motu proprio was to discipline the Franciscans some 19 years after the interreligious meeting held in Assisi in 1986 which John Paul II sponsored and with which supposedly, Benedict XVI objected. Outright lies about the event were reported by individuals who knew better and who blamed the friars, for example, for authorizing or permitting ritual abuses during the religious ceremonies of one or another delegation.
“First of all, no desecrations of holy places took place. Second, anyone who should know better, knows that when the Holy See organizes an event and holds it in places like the Assisi basilicas, it is doing so in what is essentially its (the Holy Sees) property. The friars are called upon to provide support staff but they have no authority to dictate what can or what does happen. That type of protocol has long since been refined down to its minutest details by the Vatican. Shifting responsibility on the friars was a convenience for some to try to settle old scores and to express their pleasure or displeasure with past Church policies and to attempt to influence future ones. I much admired the way in which our friars in Assisi, represented by the Custos,Vincenzo Coli, OFM Conv, acquitted themselves and reacted to the accusations and misinformation that was circulated around them in an essentially humble, Franciscan way.”
In conclusion the Conventual General Minister noted, “The controversy surrounding the motu proprio has died down considerably and Assisi is awaiting the arrival of its new bishop, His Excellency Domenico Sorrentino, who will take possession of the diocese Feb. 11 and celebrate his first Eucharist at San Francesco the following day; I hope to represent all of you o n that occasion. I have already had occasion to pay a courtesy visit to the new bishop and have found him warm, welcoming and unprejudiced by the events that have transpired. So we are hoping for a good relationship and a new beginning with the diocese of Assisi.”