Hírolvasó

Seventh International Franciscan Congress amid Islam

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The Special Commission of the Order for dialogue with Islam organized the Seventh International Franciscan Congress amid Islam that took place in Istanbul from 9 to 15 September 2019.

 The Congress seeks to commemorate the 8th Centenary of the Meeting of St. Francis of Assisi with Sultan Malik Al-Kamil in Damietta. This meeting brought together a group of 20 Franciscan brothers, sisters and laypeople working in interfaith dialogue with Islam, from the USA, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Morocco and Pakistan at the Convent of Santa Maria in Draperis in Istanbul.

 The reflections during the Congress examined St. Francis’s meeting with the Sultan from the Franciscan Sources as well as from the experience of eight centuries of meetings and testimonies of many Franciscan brothers and sisters concerning Islam. The work done by Francis of Assisi becomes, for our world today, a model and prophecy of peace and an encounter with the other, according to the spirit of chapter XVI of the Earlier Rule of St. Francis.

South Asian Franciscans Commemorate the 800th Anniversary of Encounter between St. Francis and Sultan

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Franciscan Major Superiors from Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India gathered at the Camillian Pastoral Centre in Bangkok, Thailand from 18 – 24 August 2019 to reflect on the Franciscan Missionary Charism and how it could be effectively transmitted in the region. Sixty Franciscan Major Superiors present for the gathering considered it an opportune time to celebrate 800th Anniversary of Encounter between St. Francis and Sultan. Religious leaders from Buddhism, Islam, Christianity and Sikhism were present for the commemorative event. These leaders stressed the value of peace and dialogue in a multi-cultural society. Admiring St. Francis and the Sultan for their courage to initiate a dialogue, each of the speakers shared how both men were inspiring in their own ways for everyone committed to peace. The event was organized by Association of Franciscan Families in India (AFFI) under the umbrella of South Asian Franciscan Initiative (SAFI). Br. Praveen Henry D’ Souza OFM, Minister Provincial is currently the President of AFFI.

A month before, at another event, the heads of various religions showed their grit and determination in voicing loudly yet convincingly for a respectful dialogue, peaceful co-existence, and harmonious relationship during the Inter-Religious Event on Dialogue, Peace and Harmony on 27 July 2019, in Bengaluru, India.

The Franciscan Family in the Archdiocese of Bengaluru under the patronage of its Archbishop came together to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the historical peace expedition of St. Francis.

As this anniversary opens the avenues of dialogue among the religions, the Franciscans in Bengaluru left an indelible impression of inter-religious dialogue by inviting leaders from different religions who spoke on the importance of peace and harmony and how it is possible to find the common ground for peaceful and harmonious existence in the world in spite of our differences.

Speaking about the event, Br. Praveen said that this event was just a beginning. He added, “The Franciscans ministering in Bengaluru and elsewhere in India commit themselves to promote respect for all faiths, to encourage dialogue across various religions and to create peaceful environment walking in the footprints of St. Francis of Assisi.”

Communique from the General Definitory – Tempo Forte of July 2019

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On Tuesday, July 16, the General Definitory began the Tempo Forte of July 2019 after taking part in the Under 10 Chapter of Mats, in Taizé (France) from 7 to 14 July 2019. As usual, they began by sharing the experiences of each of the members in recent weeks.

During the following sessions, 57 scholarships were granted and renewed, and new ones were awarded. Decisions were made regarding the young friars who are in the different stages of initial formation in Entities dependent on the Minister General, in particular in the Notre Dame d’Afrique Foundation, in Congo Brazzaville, and in South Sudan.

 

The following General Visitators were elected:

  • Br. Alberto MARANGOLO, for the Piceno Province of Saint James of the Marches, in Italy;
  • Br. Vicente-Emilio FELIPE TAPIA, for the Province of Our Lady of Arantzazu, in Spain;
  • Br. Giuseppe FERRARI, for the Seraphic Province of St. Francis, in Italy (Assisi);
  • Br. Guillermo Lancaster JONES CAMPERO, for the Province of the Holy Gospel, in Mexico.

 

Numerous dossiers relating to the general procurator’s office were discussed, including the following requests for:

  • information on accusations concerning graviora delicta (5);
  • dismissal from the Order (3);
  • dispensation from celibacy and the obligations of the clerical state (9);
  • dispensation from solemn vows (1);
  • secularization ad experimentum (2);
  • secularization pure et simpliciter (2);
  • indult of exclaustration (2: for three years and one for a third year);
  • dispensation from temporary vows (1).

 

The Minister General also granted two applicants readmission to the Order without having to repeat the Novitiate.

Candidates for service as Minister Provincial were approved for two Entities that will shortly celebrate their Chapter.

 

Acts of Elections were ratified:

  • in the so-called Intermediate Chapters (election of Definitors), celebrated in the following Provinces:
    • Sacred Heart of Jesus, in Italy;
    • Saint Michael the Archangel, in Italy;
    • Saint Michael the Archangel, in Ukraine;
    • Saint Francis of Assisi, in Poland;
    • Most Holy Saviour, in Slovakia;
    • Blessed John Duns Scotus, in France-Belgium.
  • in the Chapters in which the entire Government of the Provinces was elected:
    • Most Holy Name of Jesus, in Italy;
    • St. Francis of Assisi, in East Africa, Madagascar and Mauritius;
    • BVM Queen of China, in Taiwan;
    • Assumption of BVM, in Poland;
    • Holy Family, in Egypt;
    • Holy Martyrs of Gorcum, in the Netherlands;
    • Saint Elizabeth, in Germany;
    • Santiago de Compostela, in Spain.
  • In extra-capitular meetings: for 7 Entities (Guardians and a Provincial Definitor).

 

The General Definitory met Br. Cesare Vaiani, Secretary General for Formation and Studies, the General Treasurer, Br. John PUODZIUNAS, the Secretary General for the Missions and Evangelization, Br. Alonso Morales Duque, and the Assistant Br. Antonio Lanzi, Br. Jaime Andrés Campos Fonseca and Br. Rufino Lim, of the JPIC Animation Office.

The General Definitory also met with Br. Sergio Galdi of Aragon, Secretary of the General Chapter 2021. This will be held from 1 to 29 May 2021, in Manila, the Philippines as already communicated. They began the work of planning and preparing the Chapter. Two Vice-Secretaries for the Chapter were also elected: Br. Dexter Toledo, of the Province of St. Peter Baptist, in the Philippines, and Br. John Wong, of the Custody of Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei, dependent on the Province of the Holy Spirit, in Australia.

During this Tempo Forte, after a further meeting with the lawyers and the notary who accompanied the planning phase, it was decided to create the OFM Fraternitas Foundation, whose purpose will be pursuing various activities aimed at social solidarity.

After meeting Br. William Short, Visitator General for the Sant’Antonio International College, in Rome, the General Definitory elected Br. Estêvão Ottenbreit as Guardian of the CISA. They also discussed other projects that will be communicated to the fraternity at the beginning of the new academic year.

Br. Michael and the Conventual and Capuchin Ministers General, with Br. Cesare Vaiani, project coordinator, and Br. Dinh Anh Nhue Nguyen, dean of the Seraphicum, were received in audience by the Archbishop Secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education, to whom they presented the UNIFRA project, which received an excellent welcome and firm support.

On 16 and 17 November 2019, the Friars who live in the Houses of Rome dependent on the Minister General will meet at the Shrine of Our Lady of Divine Love, in Rome, for a meeting of fraternal sharing, in the style of a Chapter of Mats.

The next Tempo Forte will take place from 16 to 27 September 2019.

To the praise of Christ and the Poverello of Assisi. Amen!

 

Rome, 6 August 2019

 

Br. Giovanni Rinaldi, OFM
Secretary General

Congress of Formators of North and South Slavic Conferences

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From 1 to 7 September 2019 the Continental Congress of Formation was held for the two Conferences of Eastern Europe (North and South Slavic). It was the last in a series of six Congresses organized by the General Secretariat for Formation and Studies (Br. Cesare Vaiani e Br. Siniša Balajić) which took place starting in 2017 and which involved the formators of the various conferences of our Order, present in different continents. This Congress took place in Krakow (Poland) and saw the participation of almost thirty formators from the different Provinces present in Eastern Europe. These congresses, mandated by the 2015 General Chapter, dealt with the theme of accompaniment in ongoing formation, with particular attention to the formation of Guardians and vocational animation. The participants, at the end of the work, approved a short text that collects the main indications that emerged from the Congress. The participants were fraternally welcomed by the friars of the Province of Saint Mary of the Angels and were able to appreciate not only the quality of the contributions and the experience of the fraternal encounter, but also the beauty of the ancient city of Krakow.

JPIC Continental Meeting – Europe

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Malta, 2nd-5th September 2019 – “Living Franciscan humanism in today’s European context: Go and repair my house” was the topic of the VII Continental Meeting of JPIC European Animators.

In the retreat house “Porziuncola” in Malta, there was the meeting of 25 brothers working for the animation of the values of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) in the European continent. The meeting started with the celebration of the Eucharist, presided by Br. Richard Stanley Grech, OFM, Provincial Minister of the Province of St. Paul in Malta.

JPIC animators, coming from Spain, Ireland, England, France, Austria, Italy, Poland, Lithuania, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and our hosts, Malta, presented their realities… Through the presentations of the Conferences we had the possibility to appreciate how JPIC animators are putting into practice the priorities set forth by the JPIC Office of the Curia… We recognized the profound work concerning the care for the creation, hospitality to migrants and the promotion of peace.

After sharing the JPIC work done in the Conferences, we listened to the presentation by Andrej Owca, SVD, who lives in Geneva and is member of the NGO ONG VIVAT International: he talked about the current social and political context in Europe. The concept of “Franciscan Humanism” was introduced by Br. José Antonio Merino, OFM, Ph.D in Philosophy and Letters, through two presentations: “Franciscan humanism for a culture of love” and “Franciscan Humanism and Ecology”.

We completed the formation meetings with two practical experiences offered by the JPIC commission of the Province of St. Paul in Malta: a visit to “John XXIII Peace Lab”, an organization that tries to promote solidarity and moral values rooted in the Christian faith, without excluding any other ideas nor people. We took part in the inauguration of the “Time for Creation”, organized by the interdiocesan Commission for environment.

During the last days of the JPIC Continental Meeting, the animators worked in linguistic groups to plan the JPIC work for the next three years, in light of what the Plenary Council of the Order proposed and according to the Declaration of the International JPIC Council in Jerusalem in 2019.

 

Emotional Issues – the Role of the Fraternity

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A reflection on the emotional maturity of candidates as well as that of the professed friars seems essential, remembering that when it comes to emotional balance, we can take nothing for granted, and nothing as being definitively acquired.

It is, therefore, a question of assisting each friar to become more aware of this vital dimension of our life and developing the habit of dialoguing about these issues with people of trust. This should happen before difficulties arise, so that these healthy helping relationships can be engaged in times of need. In this area, perhaps even more than any other, it is difficult to overcome difficulties on one’s own. The help of someone competent and reliable is needed.

More specific sexual issues do not always have to do with a significant experience of falling in love. In this regard, perhaps a renewed attention to the ascetic dimension and the capacity for renunciation would be helpful — approaches which, although insufficient in themselves, are still necessary in order to live the vow of chastity. In this regard too, a stronger contrast to the culture of “everything is permissible, always” should be encouraged.

In some individual cases (but not always) this discussion can be linked to the broader theme of “addictions”. When we speak about addictions, we mean the psychological and sometimes physical habit of addiction and dependence on substances, habits, or harmful behaviours.

In our fraternities, offers of assistance ought to come from the individual’s confreres, and in particular from the Guardian when the problem becomes evident. But we know that sometimes the friars do not notice a confrere’s dependencies, or if they are aware, justify them as “peculiar habits” or “personal characteristics”. Often, when a friar’s problems lead him to decide to leave the Order, the friars of his fraternity say that they were unaware that anything was the matter. This is true not only in cases of addictions (which less frequently lead to requests to leave the Order) but also in cases of emotional involvement with others.

In each case, both when we do not notice an issue and when we justify the unjustifiable, it seems to trigger a kind of complicity, arising from a mistaken notion of discretion. It appears that friars think “it’s none of my business” or “I must not judge my brother” and therefore avoid addressing the problem. Cain’s question appears in us: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Sometimes even a distorted feeling of solidarity emerges, whereby the activities of the problematic brother are justified, and even defended against superiors or other friars, lashing out at those who raise the issue.

Of course, we are not called to be indiscreet or to be intrusive in dealing with the affairs of others. However, there is a level of fraternal involvement which no member of a fraternity should evade. If I notice a brother’s problem, in addition to talking to the person concerned, it would be useful to speak in a constructive way with the leader of the fraternity itself, not as gossip but as a form of help for the brother who needs it. All this brings us back to the existence of a fraternal climate, something that we must promote and nurture in our communities. (F&PDocument, pp. 36-39)

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Being Stewards of Creation

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Br. Roger Lopez explains, in this video, that stewardship of God’s creation requires wisely using our dominion over all creation as God does, so that everyone benefits from it.

We now have in our society this language of care. How can we reduce our impact with the environment?

This is an important part of our stewardship, that God gives us this [responsibility] as a gift. We see it from the very beginning in Genesis. God says, I give you dominion over the fish and the birds and all the creatures. And we have to understand dominion in its right way.

A lot of times, maybe in the past, we saw dominion as: We can do whatever we want with it. But that’s not how God works. God has dominion over all the universe and he does not reach into our lives and overpower us or use it for harm. His dominion is one of care, is gentle, it’s one that is constantly thinking of the others. Can we reorient our own image of domination to be like this, like God?

That is stewardship of creation: to look at every perspective, every action, and how’s it going to affect what God has given us in the world. So from recycling, to transportation, to carpooling—asking these important questions helps us, moved by God, to take care of this wonderful world that he has given us as proper caretakers of God.

Challenges for the OFS and YouFra

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For centuries the challenge for Christians has always been to find the courage to be living and effective witnesses of the Gospel of Jesus, in whatever ambit of ​​life they lived. Unfortunately, given that we are human beings and sinners, every day we are called to face ever new challenges. Jesus has always been clear on this point, and in fact he asks us to “take up our cross and follow him” (Mark 8:34). Living in such a selfish world, sometimes without even realizing it, people fall easily into individualism. The estrangement from one another justified either by the difference in age or by different attitudes and thoughts often represents a fundamental challenge for both. In today’s society, in which we focus more on what divides than on what unites us which makes us grow and helps us to live our Franciscan vocation as members of the OFS and YouFra it is necessary that everyone is aware of the importance of beginning to open wide the doors that create divisions, be they age, ideologies, religions…and begin to live the Franciscan charism in which the emphasis is placed on the Gospel. However, to face the different challenges, the members of the OFS and YouFra must always try to walk together looking at Jesus and not at themselves – and, often this is the biggest challenge both for the members of the OFS and of the Franciscan Youth.

In this context, “By their Profession, Secular Franciscans commit themselves to live the Gospel according to Franciscan spirituality in their secular state” (GGCC, Art. 8), devoting themselves to the effective and fruitful witness of their faith. First of all, we should not be content with just belonging to the Franciscan family, but rather we must look for ways of being consistent with the faith and with the Franciscan charism, which calls us to live in vital and reciprocal communion with the brothers who are a gift of God.

The ecological challenge, the wars that are fought in the world, the consumption of drugs, marital crises, moral and spiritual decadence and the problems that lead to migration are further challenges on which the Franciscan youth and the Secular Franciscans are called to reflect both on a personal and collective level to find the most appropriate answers on how to propose the right way to the world, inspired and traced by the Gospel.

What is the attitude of the young Franciscans and secular Franciscans with respect to these challenges? No one can escape their present and future consequences. It is the duty of everyone to take responsibility for building a new world, where moral values ​​are respected and protected. It is necessary to seek together adequate solutions, and it is essential that those who have the responsibility of spiritual assistance commit themselves to “make grow collaboration in the witness and in mission, and to accompany processes of community discernment to interpret the signs of the times in the light of faith and under the guidance of the Spirit, with the contribution of all the members of the community, starting from those who are on the margins” of society and of the Church.

 

Download and read the full text:

Koinonia 2019-2“Identity and Mission of YouFra”

N. 102

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Islam and Inter-Religious Dialogue: A Muslim Perspective

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An excerpt from “Islam and Inter-Religious Dialogue: A Muslim Perspective” by Irfan A. Omar, Marquette University

 

Islam as a religion arose within the milieu where, among the Arabs, there were Christian and Jewish communities who professed monotheism not practiced by other tribes. People who eventually became Muslims were always aware of many of the figures that were part of Jewish and Christian heritage such as Abraham and Hagar. After the rise of Islam these figures became integral to the belief system of the new religion even though they were now seen through a slightly different interpretative lens. This was seen as a natural development because Islam’s view of itself was that it is a continuation of these earlier religions. Historically speaking, Islam, while recognizing these religions, sought to engage with their adherents and even referred to them as part of the family of religions (ahl-i-kitāb). This is the context in which one must locate Islam’s position on interreligious dialogue. In this sense, Islam has been dialogical from its very inception. But this is the ideal side of the history of Islam. In the political realm, Islam has also been used as a tool for confrontation with, and conquest of, others. This “other” has been often conveniently labeled as a “religious” and/or a “cultural” other. Though the Qur’an speaks of differences as real, it condemns the use of the notion of “difference” as a pretext to demonize or subjugate others. The Qur’an sees differences and diversity of peoples, cultures, languages and even religions as a strength (indeed, a “mercy” from God) rather than as a problem.

[…]

Today Muslims along with leaders, practitioners, and activists from many other traditions, continue to strive to engage in dialogue and discussion for the sake of creating and maintaining peace. The increase in religious violence has compelled many to seek common wisdom and engage in a joint struggle against hateful narratives which are on the rise. No religion has been immune to having groups which have committed ghastly acts against others. In some cases, these “other-ized” victims belong to a different religious tradition but in other cases, they may be individuals and groups belonging to a sect within the same religion. Therefore, all believers must take responsibility to address the culture of hate that seeks to capitalize on by creating an “other” on the basis of “difference” often resulting in violence in the name of religion. In a globalized world any injury that afflicts one human being or community or any other living being, affects all of us, and in many more ways than previously imagined.

 

Read the complete article from St. Francis and the Sultan, 1219-2019: A Commemorative Booklet:

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The Order is deeply grateful to the editors and staff of Franciscan Media (USA), which prepared the booklet for us. For your convenience, the Special Commission is also serializing the booklet, so that you may have a better sense of its contents.

 

Image: Niccolò Monti of Pistoia, St. Francis before the Caliph, Church of St. Francis, Cortona

 

 

 

Letter from the OFM Vicar General | Update on the Accident of the Minister General

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Dear Brothers,

In the name of the Lord, I wish you peace and joy!

It is a week since our Minister General, Br. Michael A. Perry, OFM, had his accident and I now write to you, to the Franciscan Family, to all our friends, and to all who work with us in our mission to let you know that Br. Michael’s surgery has gone well. Br. Michael is doing fine, thanks be to God; he is recovering from the trauma associated with the accident, and is in good spirits as he begins his rehabilitation treatment.

Br. Michael asked me to let you know that he will need to withdraw from all activities for a considerable period. During that time he will devote himself to praying for all those who are in need of prayer, particularly for the friars who are facing suffering, illness, and uncertainty at present. Br. Michael also asks us to pray for him, praying that the Lord may continue to be at his side, granting him the strength and patience to cope with his rehabilitation. This treatment is currently taking place at The Shirley Ryan Ability Lab, 355 East Erie Street, Chicago, IL 60611. 

I take this opportunity to inform you that during the period of time in which I assume the ordinary vicarious power of government of the Order (GGCC 200 §1), I commit myself to do so entrusting myself to the help of the Lord and of my brothers — especially the General Definitory — so that as a fraternity we may continue to follow Our Lord Jesus Christ and, through the action of the Holy Spirit, to live the Gospel in the Church according to the form observed and proposed by St. Francis of Assisi (cf. GGCC 1 § 1). In order to carry out this service in the best way possible, I will be careful to keep the Minister General informed and will seek to act according to his mind and will (GGSS 148 § 3). 

Let us remain united in prayer to the Most Holy Trinity and to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, St. Francis, and St. Clare.

With fraternal good wishes,

Rome, 25th August 2019 

Br. Julio César Bunader, OFM
Vicar General

Obedience — Ministers and Guardians

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The prevalence (in regard to the vow of obedience) of individualistic values of personal autonomy (36%), associated with modernity, is freely recognised. There is, in fact, a clear awareness of the difficulties in living this vow today. It is no longer seen as discernment of God’s will (45%), but only in terms of self-sufficiency, of not having ties that constrain or threaten one’s freedom. There is a perceived lack of deep interpersonal communication with superiors (31% = 436), highly correlated to the belief of their inability to manage authority (the superiors are either too weak or too authoritarian) (32%). This is a gap that perhaps is being remedied today within Religious Life through more adequate preparation of those in charge. Here again, the discourse of interpersonal relations returns; no longer among friars of equal rank, but rather in the vertical relations of authority, which today require a lot of prudent competence in the management of leadership within communities of Consecrated Life.” [Mion, p. 115]

We have noted that the theme of fraternal relations and the difficulties related to them cuts right across this study, not just in the more specific topic of the management of authority, where the complaint, especially from the younger group, is of a climate in which “everything is allowed”. This can be seen as a significant plea for the promotion of a better aptitude for true “government” of the fraternity, which must be attentive to people and in dialogue with them. But above all, it seems that the most significant complaint is the absence of this kind of government, rather than bad practice in government.  (F&P Document, p. 35)

The data and interpretation that have been presented show that friars in a vocational crisis very often need not only personal accompaniment from a spiritual director or a professional, but also a real rapport with the Order’s institutional representatives, because it is in relationship with them that the friar’s sense of belonging can “heal” and re-establish itself. Given the sensitivity of the Minister or Guardian’s task in this situation, in which there is a combination of more personal aspects and issues that are more institutional, this service cannot be simply left to the intuition or improvisation of the individual Minister or Guardian — a more specific preparation is needed…..

The area of the animation of fraternity: training in the collaborative preparation of a common life project; management of local Chapters or other meetings; conflict management and ordinary relationships, etc.

The area of personalized accompaniment: training in empathic listening; the discernment of the motivations and ideals of the friars with whom he is engaged; skills and a breadth of vision in the accompaniment of those in crisis and in the process of a “second decision”; clarity as regards the essential aspects of Franciscan identity, etc.  (F&P Document, pp. 54, 55)

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Introducing the Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil

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An excerpt from “Introducing the Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil” by Br. Michael D. Calabria, OFM

 

Like many Muslim rulers of his day, the Sultan was a cultured and learned man. Muslim historian al-Maqrizi wrote that: “Al-Kamil much loved men of learning, preferring their society…He loved discussions with Muslim divines, and had a good number of curious problems on jurisprudence and grammar with which he would examine scholars, and those who answered rightly he advanced and gave them his favor. He gave lodging with him in the Citadel to several men of learning…Beds were set up for them beside his so that they might lie on them and converse through the night. Learning and literature flourished under him, and men of distinction resorted to his court.”

The Sultan’s apparent interest in Francis could very well have been due to his resemblance to the fuqarā – “the poor ones,” the mystics of Islam called Sufis – literally the ones who wore patched woollen garments. In his appearance, manner and speech Francis’ Order of poor, itinerant “lesser brothers” would have seemed to him more like a Sufi brotherhood (ţarīqah). Not unlike medieval Christendom, the Islamic world of the 12th – and 13th centuries had given rise to numerous mystics – male and female – who spoke of the oneness of existence, who expressed a burning desire for a God experienced as Beautiful, Merciful and Gentle, and who emphasized a life of itinerancy, contemplation, and spiritual and material poverty.

We know that al-Kamil was particularly drawn to a Sufi poet of his day, ‘Umar ibn al-Farid, called “the Prince of Lovers” on account of his sensual pining for the presence of God.  Stories related about al-Farid speak of his habit of stripping off his clothing, his ability to communicate with animals, and his tearful fits of desire for the divine, topi also found in Franciscan hagiography.  Al-Kamil would also have been familiar with a sufi master called al-shaykh al-akbar, “the Greatest Shaykh,” Ibn al-‘Arabi, who passed through Egypt at least twice during al-Kamil’s lifetime. Ibn al-‘Arabi is the sufi most associated with the concept of al-wahdat al-wajud, “the oneness of being.” Sucinctly put, the term signifies that there is only one existence, one wajud that is God. Thus, although humans perceive multiplicity in the phenomenal world – different peoples, races, classes, religions, etc. – true existence belongs to God alone. Every person and thing only reflects the existence of the One, and thus all is one in the One. Given his attraction to Sufi spirituality exemplified by Ibn al-‘Arabi and al-Farid, it is no wonder that the Sultan took interest in Francis.

 

Read the complete article from St. Francis and the Sultan, 1219-2019: A Commemorative Booklet:

 

DOWNLOAD PDF

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Read on ISSUU

EnglishEspañolItaliano

The Order is deeply grateful to the editors and staff of Franciscan Media (USA), which prepared the booklet for us. For your convenience, the Special Commission is also serializing the booklet, so that you may have a better sense of its contents.

 

Image: Taddeo Gaddi, St Francis and the Trial by Fire before the Sultan of Egypt

 

 

 

Letter from the Minister General about his Bicycle Accident

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My dear Brothers, 

May the Lord give you peace!

I am writing from the University of Chicago medical center. On Thursday, August 15, I was riding my bike along the lakefront, something I have done each day since beginning my holiday in the United States. Unfortunately, I did not see a place in the road where there was a hole. I entered the hole but then ran into another slab of concrete, which prevented me from moving forward. As a result, I fell from the bike onto my left side. The impact of the fall onto hard cement resulted in the breakage of part of the pelvic bone that holds in place the femur and controls leg movement. As a consequence, I will undergo surgery to reconstruct of the affected areas. I thank God that no other parts of my body were injured.

According to the doctors, it is a complex injury that will require extensive post-operation physical therapy and rehabilitation. I will be absent from the General Curia for an extended period of time. According to Art. 200 §1 of our General Constitutions, during my absence as I am impeded, all issues and matters must be referred to the Vicar-General, Bro. Julio César Bunader.

Thanks to the Friars, to the Conventuals, the Capuchins, the Poor Clares, the Sisters, the Secular Franciscans and all those who have sent messages or have called to demonstrate their concern and support for me. 

I will ask one of the friars of my Province to provide updates to the General Curia as things develop. Please keep me in your prayers! Even as you pray for me, I will keep you in prayer. May God bless each of you.

 

Chicago, Illinois, USAAugust 17, 2019

Fraternally yours,

Br. Michael A. Perry, OFM
Minister General and Servant

 

 

Prot. SG 19/19

Identity of YouFra in Today’s World

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There is no better way or recipe to find one’s true identity than to commit oneself to understand what the Scriptures say about man and woman, creatures made in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen. 1: 26-27). The Word of God offers, to those who listen to it, not only the opportunity to know their own identity, but also numerous perspectives to carry out the mission of witnessing to an evangelical life lived after the model of St. Francis. It is imperative that we should try to imitate the young man of the Gospel: “Good Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mk 10:17). In other words, even today, young people must have the courage to ask Jesus what the path they must follow to find their true identity and their mission in this world is, in the place and in the reality in which the Lord has placed them.

When young people let themselves be guided by the light of the Holy Spirit, they understand that they are «called to share their experience of Christian life in fraternity, and, in the light of the message of St. Francis of Assisi, seek to deepen their own vocation under the auspices of the Secular Franciscan Order».

Those who understand this and are thus able to deepen their vocation will be pleased to discover that their being a Christian is somehow intertwined with that of the OFS, whose Rule can become an inspirational document for the growth and maturation of their own Christian and Franciscan identity (cf. GGCC OFS art.96, 3). For this reason, the most important thing is to identify oneself as children of God who need to love others and to be loved, to listen and to be heard, to respect others as one wants to be respected (Cf. Mt. -40; Mk 12.29-30.33; Lk 10.27).

However, this awareness is not attained automatically: everyone must listen to the Word of God, be able to love it and preserve it in his heart. It is important to have the courage to find one’s specific and true identity as children of God, worthy of the freedom to witness the faith, the happiness of living and proclaiming the truth, not only with words, but also with works. Thus the Holy Father reminded young people: “My dear young friends, love the word God and love the Church, and this will give you access to a treasure of very great value and will teach you how to appreciate its richness…It is not easy to recognise and find authentic happiness in this world in which we live, where people are often held captive by the current ways of thinking. They may think they are “free”, but they are being led astray and become lost amid the errors or illusions of aberrant ideologies”. Therefore, the great secret whose discovery allows us to find our identity is hidden in the Sacred Scripture and in the Rule of the OFS (cf. GGCC art. 96.3): if it is sought with a spirit of discernment it is discovered and thus we become children loved by God and called by Him to follow Him along the path prepared for us, for the benefit of the fraternity and the world to which we belong. As believers we must always identify ourselves with Jesus: in service, in sacrifice, in listening, in forgiveness, in accepting, in mercy and in brotherhood. It is essential that today’s young people, despite their fragility, feel that they are his disciples, joyful to carry on the hope of a better future, without ever falling into conformism and allowing themselves to be guided by the true light – Christ himself! – at the same time walking in the light of the message of St. Francis of Assisi!

To find one’s identity depends totally on continuous discernment, on the ability and courage to let oneself be guided by the Spirit of God. «If we live by the Spirit, we also walk according to the Spirit» (Gal 5:25). Of course, it is not enough to read or listen to the Word of God if one does not have faith transmitted by parents. To find their identity, young people need the accompaniment of adults, who are exemplary teachers who help them, accept them as such and offer them the opportunity to find in their example the lived Gospel in which they can find comfort, acceptance, light for their steps even in a world where egocentrism dominates the hearts of so many young people! For this reason the Holy Father continues to remind them: «To you young people I say: Do not be afraid to go against the current, when they want to rob us of hope, when they propose rotten values, values like food gone bad – and when food has gone bad, it harms us; these values harm us. We must go against the current! And you young people, are the first: Go against the tide and have the daring to move precisely against the current. Forward, be brave and go against the tide! And be proud of doing so».

As Jesus asked his disciples to tell him what men thought of him (cf. Mt 16:13), so should be the attitude of parents, elders, religious leaders and political leaders: «to search together to look for the possible self-awareness of the world of youth», so that young people can recover the desire to feel like people of faith, able to learn from adults and admit that they need their help. This is the secret for appropriating one’s identity and mission which, for the members of YouFra, is that of being Christian and Franciscan. Therefore, always try to be witnesses and instruments of the mission of Christ among men, announcing Christ with life and with the word (cf. Rule OFS 6 CCGG 17.1). This is the heart of true and authentic Franciscan identity.

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Koinonia 2019-2“Identity and Mission of YouFra”

N. 102

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Healing the Violence of the Contemporary World

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An excerpt from “Healing the Violence of the Contemporary World: A Franciscan Paradigm for Dialogue with Islam” by Br. Michael F. Cusato, OFM

 

We would do well to repeat the message: the one we think is our enemy is actually our friend. To understand the true import of Francis’s words and to avoid the pitfall of equating the meaning of “friend” with “friendship,” it is better to associate the Latin word amicus (friend) with a word that is a little more familiar to us and more central in the Franciscan lexicon: frater. Seen in this light, the one we have been taught to see as our enemy – taught by society, taught by the Church – is actually our fratres et sorores, our brothers and sisters!

In this powerful, if brief, message, Francis is telling the brothers that he is going to the Holy Land in order to show by the actions of his own life that the one whom the Church calls the infidel and the enemy par excellence is, in fact, a brother: part of the human family, a member of the human fraternity. Francis is going, in other words, to preach by his words but especially by his own deeds the message of penance: namely, that no one, not even the one most despised by the Church and considered to be the enemy of Christ, not even those who may have perpetrated heinous deeds against another, surrenders their creaturehood or exists outside of the human fraternity. But such creaturehood also entails responsibility: the responsibility of each member of that sacred fraternity – Christian and Muslim – to live in a manner that preserves and honors the bonds that indissolubly bind us all together. To do this is to do penance. Francis is going to the East to show this – and to live this – even if it might cost him his own life. And if it does – if, in the process of being utterly faithful to the life he has promised since his encounter with the lepers, treating every human person as a sacred creature of the human fraternity – then, having been faithful to his vow, he and all who follow him in this will gain eternal life. It is what every religious is promised on the day of his or her profession.

This is a profound message, utterly consistent with what Francis learned in the seminal experience of his conversion. Thus: Francis did not go to the Holy Land to provoke his own death. Rather, he went in order to bring the message of penance and to live out, to its ultimate conclusion, his radical vision of the universal fraternity of all creatures.

 

Read the complete article from St. Francis and the Sultan, 1219-2019: A Commemorative Booklet:

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The Order is deeply grateful to the editors and staff of Franciscan Media (USA), which prepared the booklet for us. For your convenience, the Special Commission is also serializing the booklet, so that you may have a better sense of its contents.

 

Image: Francis before the Sultan, Chapel of the Most Sacred Heart, Church of the Gesù, Rome

 

 

 

Lay friars and clericalism

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The percentage of lay friars who leave the Order is on average higher than that of the friar priests who leave.

This figure requires interpretation. We might speculate that it indicates an unease linked to a crisis of identity, which can be greater in the case of lay friars because it is not supported by priestly ministry which seems to be a fundamental aspect for many friars.  We can add to this the fact that in the sociological survey [Prof. Mion, 2013] the issue of clericalism in formation emerges; “1 friar in 4 highlights an accentuated clericalism in his formation and mission (25.4%).”

By clericalism we mean a perspective that sees the priest friar as the norm (or default) of the Franciscan identity and that, consequently, thinks of Initial Formation in terms of preparation for the priesthood on a par with (and perhaps more important than) preparation for perpetual Profession. Within this perspective, it is normal to ask a young friar to justify his choice of asking not to become a priest — the path to the priesthood seems to be “taken for granted” or “normal”. A sign of this clericalism lies in the fact that Initial Formation programmes expressly designed for lay friars are rarely to be seen, while the route of philosophical and theological studies, based on that of diocesan seminaries, seems to be the “normal” model. Perhaps then we should not be too surprised that, some years later, many leave the Order to become diocesan priests. In some cases (without generalising) perhaps it is ultimately the right choice, which might not have been possible at the beginning, but that in a clerical Formation was insufficiently challenged.

The slow but persistent decrease in lay vocations should also be noted. From 2003 to 2017, the percentage of Solemnly Professed lay friars dropped from 16.9 % to 16%. This decrease might also be interpreted as a sign that these friars are not always easily inserted into the Province — a kind of specific identity crisis of the lay friar within our fraternities, due to an “imbalance” towards a somewhat clerical identity. The slow and steady decline of lay friars in the Order is perhaps reflected in the fact that some of the countries that have strong growth in vocation numbers have very few candidates to be lay friars, because almost all of them aspire to the priesthood. This option may also reflect a desire for social advancement and poses the question of how clear the Franciscan identity is to young candidates. (F&P Document, pp.  29, 30)

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What sums up St. Francis’ spirituality? The Canticle of the Creatures

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Br. Murray Bodo explains the meaning of St. Francis’ prayer of praise to God through Mother Earth. The universe that God created is the primary revelation to humankind. It’s the primary Scripture, and Francis helps us connect again to all creatures and to the Earth itself.

The Canticle of the Creatures for Francis summed up his whole spirituality and his whole life, because he praises God by being a part of all of the created world.

He singles out the four elements of earth, water, air, and fire. And he calls them his brother and sisters:

Brother Fire

Sister Water

Brother Wind

Sister Mother Earth

They became his brother and sister, and he praised God with them and by means of them.

The universe that God created is the primary revelation to us. It’s the primary Scripture, and I see in Francis someone who will help us connect again to the animals, to the birds, to the oceans, to the Earth itself.

Feast of St. Clare 2019: Letter of the Minister General

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Dialogue: A Characteristic of God, A Virtue for every human being

 

Dear Sisters,

May the Lord give you peace!

As the years follow on from each other, the Solemnity of St. Clare of Assisi, our sister and mother, brings with it an opportunity to continue a dialogue that can become ever deeper and more wide-ranging. I would like this letter to be an expression of a fraternal dialogue in which I see you as active participants. I welcome any reflections, proposals, or initiatives that you can share; they are precious to me and to all of you dear sisters, because they help us to be centred and to focus on the essentials of God’s call within the Church.

Given that this is the year in which the Franciscan Order commemorates the meeting between St. Francis and al-Malik al Kamil, I would like to speak to you about dialogue. All over the world, initiatives are springing up that promote dialogue among those who believe in God — and in particular with Muslims. The kingdom of God is manifest wherever a welcoming space is created for those who are different to us.

 

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You are dialogue

Dialogue has to do with who God is, because God is communion. In the Profession of Faith, we profess “I believe in God the Father.”God is Father who has generated a Son; therefore, there is a relationship between them. This relationship is absolute and complete, and is itself a Person — I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life.

At the beginning of 2019, I addressed a letter to the Franciscan Family and to our Muslim brothers and sisters, in which I wrote about the Praises of God that Francis composed at La Verna after receiving the stigmata. In particular, I reflected on two of the praises; ‘You are humility’ and ‘You are patience’— now I would also add ‘You are dialogue’. Yes, because from the beginning of eternity the three divine Persons constitute life that is constantly communicated from the Self to the Other, a life that both generates and welcomes life. Loveis the name for a way of being that is fertile and generates fruitfulness, because those who love seek the other, and give themselves so that the other can fully live.

By choosing us as adopted children to the praise of His glory (cf. Eph 1:3-14), God wanted to involve us too in his mystery of love, of life, and of communion. What a grace this is! As from the beginning the Son is turned towards the Father, so the Father through the Son addresses the Word to the whole of creation (cf. Jn1:1-3): “He spoke, and they were created” (Ps 148:5). In the dialogue between God and humanity, the initiative always comes from God; the divine Word comes to meet us (cf. Jer 15:16).

Because of the image in which they have been formed, and the likeness with which they are called to cooperate with God (cf. Adm V,1),  human beings — created male and female — are also turned towards the other; the Other who is Creator, and the other who is woman and man respectively (cf. Gen 1:27). The story of Genesis 2 well expresses this truth — the man recognizes the meaning of his existence only when he communicates with the ‘thou’ that is similar to him, that stands before him, that constitutes the human person in the completeness of the image of God. Therefore, the man and the woman are not isolated monads, closed in on themselves; they are persons-in-dialogue.

 

The Word becomes flesh

We know well — which of us hasn’t engaged in it, and who doesn’t experience it? — that it is here that sin is situated. Sin blocks the flow of vital communication and locks everyone into a false and suffocating world. By narrating the reactions of Adam and Eve after the act of disobedience, the Biblical author makes this clear: there is no longer any fruitful dialogue, only the mutual recriminations of mortals. Communion between human persons, which is an image of the communion between the Divine Persons, now exists side by side with the potential to also be enemies!

In the fullness of time, God’s own Word becomes flesh in this wounded and divided world (cf. Jn1:14) and remains there as a love that never ceases to give itself in the sacrament of His Body. We nourish ourselves with this Word in order to once more learn to speak the language of God, which is communion.

Today, we are global people who experience the tragedy of conflict and isolation, of contacts that multiply along with the difficulty of truly communicating. Can we say that we really know the alphabet that spells authentic dialogue?

This is precisely the favourable time to give strength to our ‘dialogical’ vocation, just as the author of John’s first letter writes: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life —  the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us — that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.”(1 Jn 1:1-3).

I would like to dwell on some of the substance of this text.

 

Communion with the Word of life

The first movement towards dialogue is to welcome it as a gift, because I do not go to meet the other simply bringing myself but bringing what I in turn have received (cf. 1 Cor 11:23). What I have received comes from that gaze that revealed to me the vision of true life, that word that gave direction to my journey (cf. Ps 118,105). Francis won Clare for that same Lord for whom he himself was first won. Clare urges her sisters to love “in the love of Christ” through which they recognize themselves to be loved.

Therefore, both the attribute and the ability to dialogue are to be sought in the truth of our relationship with the Lord. In Clare’s writings there is a very striking scene, “Contemplate, in the depth of this same mirror, the ineffable charity that He chose to suffer on the tree of the Cross and to die there the most shameful kind of death. Therefore, that Mirror, suspended on the wood of the Cross, warned those passing by that here are things to be considered, saying: “All you who pass by the way, look and see if there is any suffering like my suffering!” “Let us respond to Him”, It says, “crying out and lamenting, in one voice, in one spirit:” ‘Remembering this over and over leaves my soul sinking within me!’”(IV letter 23-26).

When dialogue is founded on the rock of the living relationship with the Lord Jesus, contemplated in the moment of his total self-giving, then it can resist the winds of misunderstanding, disappointment, and even the feeling that ‘it is not worth it’ — because being open to dialogue can be crucifying.

I am struck by the fact that Clare, while writing to Agnes in person, responds to the invitation of the Crucifix with the plural form “let us respond”, and exhorts that this should be done “in one voice, in one spirit.” I like to see this as an expression of the communitarian-communion character of your life as Poor Sisters — the paschal dynamic of daily life in which diversity becomes harmony, and the range of feelings, will, and activity can reach an accord.

When your gaze is fixed on the Crucifix, contemplating the love that reaches each one of you individually, then your inner ear becomes more attentive to the sound of his voice calling you — and you discover yourselves being collectively called to grow in compassion. I see this as one of the fruits of the Spirit, as a mature expression of dialogue, both with the Lord and amongst youselves, which needs to be faithfully pursued through and beyond any temptations, beyond the inclination to be closed to the other or to be intrusive in regard to the other. In dialogue we come face to face.

 

“We proclaim this also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us.”

Those who dialogue seek out the other so as to together participate in the beauty and richness of life, aiming to reduce distance in order to celebrate an ever-changing encounter. When we dialogue, we do not stay the same; places within us come to light, areas that had until then remained in the shadows, ignored by ourselves. Even before getting to know the other, those who dialogue first grow in self-knowledge, welcoming their own uniqueness and then offering it without pretension. Nothing could be more contrary to dialogue than a spirit of domination or revenge. Nothing could be more favourable to it than the littleness that is non-threatening, the straightforwardness that does not deceive, the transparency that is free from any suspicion of ambiguity or subterfuge. In dialogue the other is not exploited.

Clare and the sisters navigate the logjams of discord and division, envy and murmuring in their daily lives; they open up spaces of welcome and communion through forgiveness, reconciliation, and intercession (cf. Regola Santa Clare X, 6; IX, 7-11).

The letters written to Agnes of Prague witness to the extent that Clare was willing and ready to enter into dialogue with the other, and how convinced she was that in the interchange between sisters, one can better understand what pleases God and adhere to it. Clare listens to Agnese’s questions and answers her (cf. III letter 29-41). She invites her distant sister in her turn to seek out dialogue with those who will be able to  enlighten her regarding the truth of the vocation she has received (cf. II letter 15-18), in order to walk more securely in the way of the commands of the Lord (cf. II letter 15).

Clare also knows how to translate her ‘abiding’ in the communion of the Trinity into the language of gestures that express dialogue: giving an egg to the sister who was tempted to suffocate herself; kissing the foot which had struck her in the face; putting covers on the sleeping sisters in the cold of night and tracing the sign of the cross on their aching bodies. The way of dialogue leads to the embrace of the other.

 

Dialogue and our history

Two memorable dialogues mark the beginnings of the history of our Franciscan Family and its charism. That which took place one night at Spoleto between the Lord and Francis (cf. 1Celano 6) and then continued in a cave near Assisi (cf. 1Celano 6), and the dialogue in the church of San Damiano between Francis and the Crucifix (cf. 2Celano 10). The recurring dialogues between Francis and the young Clare (Legend of St. Clare 3) undoubtedly are also decisive turning points in this story.

And how could we not recall that all of us are ‘born again’ at the Portiuncula, at St. Mary of the Angels? On the Feast of the Pardon, we once again listen to the dialogue between Mary and the Angel, the dialogue that initiated the time when the Lord “gave himself to save us” (Assisi Compilation, 14).

All of this leads me, together with the friars, to renew our desire and our commitment to make our lives into placesof encounter with the Word of God and also with the words spoken by human beings.

And, my Ladies, I pray that you continue to be women of dialogue, in the Lord’s name.

 

Rome, July 25th, 2019
Feast of St. James

Fr. Michael A. Perry, OFM
Minister General and Servant

 

Cover: Saint Clare. Attributed to the school of Parmigianino, Monastero Sant’Agnese, Florence.

Prot. 109202

St. Francis and the Sultan, 1219-2019: A Commemorative Booklet

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In recognition of the continuing relevance of the encounter between St. Francis and Sultan al-Malik al-Kamal in 1219, the Special Commission for Dialogue with Islam is happy to present to you, the Brothers of the Order and our many friends, St. Francis and the Sultan, 1219-2019: A Commemorative Booklet.

This booklet provides you with a collection of informative articles that explicate the historical encounter through the lives and faiths of St. Francis and the Sultan, explore their meeting through the eyes of an artist and film director, and provide a Muslim perspective on interreligious dialogue. Catholic and Franciscan foundations for interreligious dialogue are represented by excerpts from papal encyclicals, the documents of the Second Vatican Council, and the Constitutions of the Order of Friars Minor. Suggestions for additional reading are also included.

 

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The Order is deeply grateful to the editors and staff of Franciscan Media (USA), which prepared the booklet for us. For your convenience, the Special Commission is also serializing the booklet, so that you may have a better sense of its contents.

 

Image: Baccio Maria Bacci, St. Francis and the Trial by Fire before the Sultan of Egypt, La Verna Franciscan Sanctuary

 

 

 

Youth, future hope of the World and of the Church

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A world without youth is a world without a Future, and if the Church does not take care of youth it is like a house founded on sand. So what should be the attitude of civil society, politicians and the Church towards young people? For centuries the political world, with its worldly ideologies (see for example the laws in favour of abortion, of marriages between individuals of the same sex that flourish in all parts of the world, political propaganda against the moral teachings of the church, etc…) has increasingly forgotten its responsibility to promote a youth which will be the society of tomorrow, healthy and with profound human and religious values. Unfortunately, some young people have been deceived by these proposals and as a result youth see themselves deprived of the «flourishing of virtues and life».

However, the Church has never forgotten its responsibility to form young people, to seek the most appropriate ways to «listen to the world of youth and ask how to accompany the new generations to recognize and welcome the call to love and to life in fullness». There are many apostolic and mission initiatives – I remember in particular those organized by the Youth Ministry and the Apostolic Penitentiary – but, in particular, it is important to underline that, in 1948, the Church approved the official birth of Franciscan Youth, side by side with many other Catholic movements: all this shows how the Church is always available to help young people both to find a space of discernment and to rekindle the flame of faith that the world of today with its false and worldly propaganda seeks to extinguish.

Today the world of youth is polarized by ideas and proposals that are contrary to true moral, ethical and political freedoms; the Church, for its mission, must always ensure young people its closeness and its support so that they should never feel alone. The Church must serve as a mirror of truth, a mirror that reflects to the young the teachings of Christ – the way, the truth and the life. Today, more than ever, the Church is called to show young people the true path to follow, that is, to show Christ, because Christ is the way that every Christian is called to follow if he wants to find peace, happiness and unconditional love. This is confirmed by Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, when he says: «only the Catholic Church remains, in its weak fortress or strong weakness, to hold back the cataracts of evil, to act as a holding device which prevents man from destroying and annihilating himself, therefore we are called to respond to the needs of the young, building the Christian and at the same time the man: the man because Christian and the Christian because man».

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Koinonia 2019-2“Identity and Mission of YouFra”

N. 102

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