Pope Francis Appoints Malta Friar Bishop of Tripoli

Maria Hayes Franciscan World


Bishop-elect George Bugeja

The following is a monthly compilation of news from the website and Facebook page of the English-speaking Conference of the Order of Friars Minor, comprising provinces from Canada, England, Ireland, Lithuania, Malta and the United States.

Earlier this month, Pope Francis announced the appointment of Maltese friar Fr. George Bugeja, OFM, as coadjutor bishop of Tripoli, Libya. Fr. George currently serves as guardian of the Convent of St. Anthony of Padua in Ghajnsielem, Malta.

His episcopal ordination is expected to take place in Gozo, Malta, on Sept. 4.

Fr. George professed his first vows as a Franciscan in 1978. His first assignment after ordination was to Tripoli, where he served for less than a year before relocating to Toronto, Canada.

He has served at other locations in Malta as a guardian and parish priest, as well as an auditor in the Ecclesiastical Tribunal of the Diocese of Gozo. He also has a background in formation work, serving as master of novices and students and as a ministry formator in the Major Seminary of Gozo. From March 2010 to 2015, he was an official for the Congregation of the Evangelization of Peoples in Vatican City.

Within his province, Fr. George was also editor of Tau from 1997 to 2005, and was also responsible for the Secretariat for Franciscan Missions from 1995 to 2007.


Fr. Dhiya Azziz, OFM

Missing Syrian Friar
Earlier this month in Syria, the Custody of the Holy Land lost contact with one of its friars, Fr. Dhiya Azziz, OFM, who was ministering in Syria. News reports originally led the custody to believe that Fr. Dhiya had been taken by militants thought to be affiliated to the al-Nusra Front, a branch of al-Qaeda operating in Syria and Lebanon.

However, in a later statement, the custody reported “the group denied any involvement in his kidnapping and allegedly led the police investigation in neighboring villages, which led to Fr. Dhiya’s liberation.”

Fr. Dhiya was allegedly treated well during his kidnapping, according to the custody, which thanked those who prayed for Fr. Dhiya’s safety. The custody urged prayers for other religious still missing in Syria.


ESC communicators, at their annual meeting, sharing ideas and challenges

Annual Communicators Meeting
In the United States, the ESC communicators gathered last week for their annual meeting, hosted this year by Holy Name Province.  During the four-day meeting in New York City, the attendees shared ideas about communication practices, discussed the papal encyclical and the upcoming visit of Pope Francis to three East Coast cities, and spoke with Fr. James Martin, S.J., about social media and the Jesuits’ America magazine.

“It was a very productive meeting,” said Jocelyn Thomas, HNP communications director and chair of the ESC Communications committee. “We had participation this year from provinces that don’t usually attend these meetings which made our discussions feel very thorough and lively. I find these get-togethers extremely helpful because we are able to learn about both how provinces around the world communicate the Franciscan message as well as about what their cultures are like.”

Other news from the English-speaking Conference includes:

Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.