A historical inter-religious conference remembering the Franciscan Protomartyrs

2019 was the eighth centenary of the meeting in Egypt of St. Francis with the Sultan al-Malek al-Kamil. Many meetings were held to mark the anniversary, and Pope Francis himself went to two countries with an Islamic majority, the United Arab Emirates and Morocco.

This year is the eighth centenary of the martyrdom by Miramolino of five Friars Minor in Marrakech in 1220. To mark the occasion an interreligious conference was held on Sunday, 6 December 2020 in Terni, the homeland of the Franciscan Protomartyrs. The first part of the meeting was an attempt to understand what happened in 1220 in its historical context. Following this Imam Nader Akkad, professor at the Islamic University of al-Azhar gave a talk on The Culture of Encounter: from Saint Francis and the Sultan to Pope Francis’ Fratelli tutti”. Finally, Bishop Giuseppe Piemontese, Bishop of Terni spoke on: The Franciscan Protomartyrs: their message for today.

The importance of this conference lies in the fact that we tackled a chapter of Franciscan and Christian history that is often seen today as so embarrassing that even Franciscans themselves do not speak about it. But if we want to live as “brothers and sisters all” not only with Muslims but also with followers of different faiths, it is essential to carry out an effective purification of memory by facing up to deeds and words that can hinder a peaceful coexistence. History cannot be changed. But the way we read history can be helped by an initial description of the events followed by an evaluation of its relevance. This conference provided a sound methodology for studying the Franciscan Protomartyrs thanks to the contributions of the Imam and the Bishop.