BENGHAZI, Libya – The Franciscan Church of the Immaculate Conception, with the adjacent friary and the residence of the Apostolic Vicar of Benghazi, has been attacked and ransacked by angry Muslim mobs during the disorders that took place here on Feb. 20 after cartoons of the prophet Mohammed were published in Europe.
According to an official communication from the General Curia, the disorders that took place have forced the Franciscans who work in that diocese, two Filippinos and two Poles, together with the bishop, Sylvester Carmel Magro, OFM, to leave the Franciscan friary and take refuge in Tripoli, along with the Franciscan sisters who work in the diocese. Neither the friars nor the sisters who work in Benghazi have suffered any damage.
The Franciscan church of Benghazi is one of just two Catholic churches in Libya. The other church is that of St. Francis in Tripoli, where Giovanni Martinelli, OFM, the Apostolic Vicar of Tripoli, resides, together with other Franciscans. The Libya Mission belongs to the Order of Friars Minor and is entrusted to the juridical care of the Maltese Franciscan Province.
The General Minister, José Rodríguez Carballo, OFM, has written a letter to the brothers and sisters who work in the Church of the Immaculate Conception, as well as to all the Christians who live in Benghazi. He confirmed his closeness to them in this moment of trial and reaffirmed the will of the Order to follow faithfully a history of pacific presence in the Muslim world that goes back to the year 1219, when Saint Francis met the Sultan Melek-el-Kamel.