Order Update: Franciscans Mark 800 Years in Holy Land, Other News

Maria Hayes Franciscan World

Fr. Michael Perry presides at the recent liturgy marking the anniversary of the Franciscans in the Holy Land. (Photo courtesy of OFM.org)

The following descriptions summarize recent news from the Order of Friars Minor. Additional details can be found by visiting the links to the news items mentioned. Follow the Order of Friars Minor on Facebook and Twitter for information throughout the month.

  The September 2017 Tempo Forte was held from Sept. 11 to 22 in Rome and Turkey. During the first week, a new General Councilor was elected: Fr. Jürgen Neitzert, OFM, from the Province of St. Elizabeth in Germany. Much of the September meeting was spent preparing for the Plenary Council of the Order, which will take place from June 12 to 28 in Nairobi, Kenya. The Council also heard a presentation from representatives from Price Waterhouse Coopers regarding the outcome of an audit of the Order’s finances. The General Minister will share details regarding this audit with the Order in the future.

  From Oct. 16 to 18, the Franciscans marked the 800th anniversary of the Franciscan presence in the Holy Land. General Minister Fr. Michael Perry, OFM, took part in the celebrations, along with Custos Fr. Francesco Patton, OFM, and Bursar Fr. Ramzi Sidawi, OFM. A brief interview with the General Minister regarding the Franciscan presence in the Holy Land was posted on the Order’s website. When asked about future challenges that the Custody of the Holy Land will face, he replied, “In order to understand the way in which the Franciscan custody’s work will be carried on in the future, we must look at what they are doing today. The challenges of tomorrow are the same as the past. Today, the friars are accompanying pilgrims and Christians in the various countries in which they are present, promoting dialogue and being witnesses through their lives: a life that finds roots in God’s message through the fathers and mothers in the history of salvation. The Custody has the challenge of involving every person in the search for God, but also that of human dignity, and of the dignity of the planet itself, about which Pope Francis speaks in the encyclical ‘Laudato Si’,’ ‘stealing’ the words of St. Francis. This quest for harmony, like a spiritual dance, like a cosmic dance, is the future for all of us in the Holy Land.”

  Pope Francis sent a letter to the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land marking the 800th anniversary of the Franciscan presence in that region as guardians of the holy sites. The pontiff praised the Franciscans “for their vital contribution to life in the Holy Land, in particular, their work to accompany pilgrims coming from all over the world.” The pope also observed that the Franciscans live alongside people of different cultures and religions, sowing seeds of “peace, fraternity, and respect.” He complimented the Franciscans on their work with the local Church, as well as their commitment to biblical and archeological studies.

  The friars of the East Africa province asked the Order for prayers on Oct. 26 as Kenya returned to the polls to elect a president after the first election in August was annulled by the Supreme Court. “We are seeing first-hand how the struggle for political and economic power is combining with ethnic tensions to bring the country to a boiling point,” wrote Provincial Minister Fr. Carmelo Giannone, OFM. “Our beloved Kenya is now on very thin ice. It feels like we are at the cliff edge, and a small movement in the wrong direction could plunge the country into disaster. … Please pray that Kenya and her people may find a way through this crisis and that once again the country can become a shining light in East Africa for democracy and progress. Many of our own OFM brothers here are suffering great pain, as they see their own communities and families suffering amidst the unfolding crisis.”

  General Vicar Fr. Julio Bunader, OFM, gave a report to the 2017 Union of Friars Minor of Europe (UFME) Assembly regarding the global phenomenon of migration and the refugee crisis being witnessed throughout the world. The full report is available on the Order’s website.

  In September, 70 lay brothers from the Friars Minor, Capuchins, Conventuals and Third Order Regular met in Vila Velha, Brazil, to “promote a fraternal spirit among the brothers of Brazil and to reflect on the consecrated religious life in its process of transformation, from the perspective of the Franciscan lay brother.” As a result of the meeting, the brothers suggest four guidelines for all friars to follow: (1) to emphasize in vocational promotions and initial formation the essential and prophetic dimension of being a brother; (2) to avoid the use of hierarchical pyramid models of leadership and to encourage the participation of lay brothers in decision making, and (3) to highlight ministries that reach beyond traditional spaces, creating new perspectives and broadening horizons so that friars may be promoters of JPIC and be in solidarity with the poor and the marginalized.

  The Theological Institute of Murcia is offering an online seminar in Spanish titled “The Franciscan Heritage: Experience, Reflection, Current.” The course is divided into three parts: (1) the study of the biographies and writings of Francis and Clare, (2) the Franciscan movement in the first centuries, and (3) Franciscan thought and the “Franciscan school.” The program is open to everyone. More information is available on the Order’s website.

Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.

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