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Order Update: Gatherings in Thailand, Philippines

The following descriptions summarize recent events throughout the Order of Friars Minor Additional details can be found on the OFM website and by following the Order on Facebook and Twitter.

► Last month, General Minister Fr. Michael Perry, OFM, and General Council members met with the ministers of the Franciscan Conferences of Asia and Oceania at Baan Phu Waan Pastoral Training Center, in Sam Phran, Thailand. Twenty-two provincial ministers, along with six OFM secretaries and coordinators of both conferences participated in the Feb. 10 to 15 gathering. Fr. Carolo, OFM, of the Province of the Holy Korean Martyrs, is president of the East Asian Conference, and Fr. Yusuf Bagh, OFM, of the Custody of St. John the Baptist, Pakistan, is president of the South Asia, Australia, and Oceania Conference.

After the meeting in Thailand, the General Minister and Council members proceeded to the Philippines to join the final two days (Feb. 16 to 18) of the Asia, Australia and Oceania Conference’s “Under 10” gathering at St. Paul’s Retreat Center in Alfonso, Cavite, where roughly 40 young friars from those areas of the conference also participated at the meeting, whose theme was “Young Asian Friars in a Radically Changing World.” The General Minister gave a talk titled “The Franciscan Challenge of Going to the Peripheries.”

► The first missionary congress in Asia was held Feb. 17 to 21 in Manila, the Philippines. The presidents and secretaries of the two Franciscan conferences in Asia organized the congress, whose objectives were to reflect on the current situation of mission in Asia and to strengthen links between the entities of the FCAO entities, as well as experiencing the diverse cultural expressions of the Asian world.

► The 800th anniversary of the encounter between St. Francis of Assisi and Sultan al-Malik al-Kamal in Damietta 800 years ago is being celebrated around the world. Friars and provinces throughout the Order are invited to share descriptions of how they are commemorating the 800th anniversary by sending their stories and accompanying photos and videos to the General Secretariat for Missions and Evangelization.

In addition to sponsoring programs of dialogue between Christians and Muslims in Sindh and Punjab, friars in Pakistan invited people from the Hindu, Sikhs and other faith communities to broaden awareness of peace and harmony. For some participants, it was their first encounter with a Christian or Muslim in that type of environment.

Meanwhile, the friars in the Franco-Belgian Province – who have a long history of dialogue with the followers of Islam, and of placing the experience of the fruit of that history at the service of the Church and the world – produced a flyer detailing the many programs, publications and events they are organizing to mark the 800th anniversary of the historic encounter. The flyer,written in French, lists such activities as a visit of their Dervish friends to France in March, a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in September, and, in collaboration with the French Bishops Conference National Service for Dialogue with Muslims, a study tour in Egypt in November.

► Secular Franciscans around the world are commemorating the 40th anniversary of the promulgation of their present Rule by Pope Paul VI with the apostolic letter, Seraphicus Patriarcha, which was written on June 24, 1978. The latest issue of Koinonia, the publication for spiritual assistants of the secular Franciscans (OFS and YOUFRA), celebrates this anniversary and is available for downloading on the Order’s website.

► The World Day of Prayer and Reflection against Human Trafficking was held Feb. 8. This annual commemoration was established in 2015 by Pope Francis to serve as a memorial to St. Josephine Bakhita, a religious of Sudanese origin who was a victim of slavery for many years of her life. Various activities have been coordinated around the world to raise awareness of the scourge of human trafficking, which mainly affects women, boys and girls. In Rome, two public activities took place, one on the memorial of St. Josephine Bakhita, when the friars and others gathered at prayer vigil themed “Shed a Light Against Human Trafficking,” attended by nearly 500 people, mostly religious, at the Basilica of San Antonio (known to the friars as “The Antonianum”). On Feb. 10, participants joined a public march from the Castel Sant’Angelo towards St. Peter’s Square. During the march, prayer cards for the victims of human trafficking were distributed to the people who gathered in the square to participate in the Angelus with the pope.

► Recent meetings of the Order’s General Council, or “Tempo Forte,” included discussions about the General Chapter of 2021. Full reports on the meetings are available on the Order’s website, with comprehensive sections with Documents and News along with information about vocations and ways to donate.

– Br. Jim is a communications assistant in the HNP Communications Office.

Editor’s note: Information about commemorations of the encounter in Damietta of St. Francis and the Sultan will be published in a future issue of HNP Today.

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