27 Nov Friars’ Address to Pope Francis in Audience
Holy Father, dear Pope Francis,
In the name of the whole Franciscan family I greet you with the same words of St. Francis of Assisi: May the Lord give you peace! We are very grateful for the gift of this meeting with you. Just a few days from 29th November, the date in the year 1223 when Pope Honorius III approved the Rule written by St. Francis, we have come here to tell you of the journey we have made and which we wish to make, from the time on 4th October 2013 when we met at the tomb of St. Francis in Assisi. I remember on that occasion, I had the honour to present to you the Ministers General, the Sister Minister of the Secular Franciscan Order, and the representatives of the numerous feminine and masculine congregations which adopt the Third Order Rule. At the end of this introduction you asked in a delicate, and perhaps deliberately amazed tone: “Is there also a Franciscan ecumenism?” You then added, “Stay united!” Holy Father, we accepted with joy your invitation and now we will recount to you briefly what we have done.
Various members of the Franciscan family, in particular the friars who live in Assisi, have very creatively put forward the idea of a series of encounters to enable us to get to know and appreciate each other. The meetings which occurred on the anniversaries of historical events which we desired to celebrate together provided us with the occasions for such acquaintance and dialogue. I would begin by referring to the 5th centenary of papal bull, “Ite vos” promulgated by Leo X, on 29th May 1517, whose aim was to unify the various Franciscan conglomerations of the time under one Minister General. The aim of the bull failed however and the result was a separation between the Friars Minor and the Conventual Friars Minor. Within another 11 years, in 1528, the pope, Clement VII authorized the reform of the Capuchin Friars Minor. Together with gratitude for the great things the Lord’s Spirit has done through the various components of the Franciscan family, we have to recognize that we have lived through tense times and in disharmony. The anniversary of the eighth centenary of the “Forgiveness of Assisi” was the favourable occasion for asking forgiveness and so on 11th July 2016, in the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels, we experienced a celebration of reconciliation and peace. From 29th May to 2nd June of the present year, the Franciscan friars of Umbria with their respective Ministers and Vicars-General gathered together at Foligno for a Chapter which they dubbed the “Most General Chapter”. Gratitude, hope and the desire for communion characterized the event.
A further and significant project which we are working on together is the realization of a single Franciscan University. In addition, in a few days time, on the date of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, a fraternity composed of Friars minor, Conventuals and Capuchins will begin a new experience together. Other significant initiatives involving close cooperation are also under way in the field of formation, as in the three monthly courses of missionary formation in Brussels, and starting this year we are offering and will animate formation refresher courses for the three masculine Orders in Africa.
Holy Father, we are grateful to you for your indefatigable commitment to announcing the Good News of our Lord with simple words and your unique cordial and fraternal style. Particular thanks are due for your Encyclical Laudato si’ in which your call for our Sister Mother Earth to be cared for echoes and makes current the spirit of our holy Founder. Bless us, Holy Father! We ask you to confirm us in this journey towards unity and communion that we wish to continue with strength and conviction, for the good of the Church. We are also awaiting to hear from you as regards your decision on friars.
Bless our sisters, the Poor Clares and all the brothers and sisters in the Secular Franciscan Order. Peace and all good!
Fr. Mauro Jöhri, Minister General OFMCap and current President of CMG OFM and TOR
Città del Vaticano (Aula Clementina), 23 November 2017