Our Custody of Morocco: a secular and faithful witness

“The Friars of the Custody of the Protomartyrs of Morocco are very happy with the Minister General’s decision to make the Canonical Visitation of the Custody himself, rather than sending his delegate”, said Br Manuel Fernández Corullón, Custos of the Custody of Morocco. Furthermore, he welcomed the fact that Br Massimo Fusarelli, Minister General, is personally present in Morocco these days to prepare the Custodial Chapter to be held in Rabat from 18 to 22 April 2022.

Friar Manuel also added that “this visit of the Minister General will enable him to get to know the reality of the Custody, the services of the friars and their insertion in the particular Church and in Moroccan society closely. It will also enable him to continue to seek out and accompany the friars of the whole Order who wish to serve this early mission of the Order”.

The Franciscan presence in Morocco dates back to the time of St Francis when, at the beginning of the winter of 1219, Br Bernardo of Calvi dell’Umbria, Br Pietro of San Gemini, Br Ottone of Stroncone, Br Accursio and Br Audito, sent by St Francis, came to Marrakech on a mission which ended with the witness of their martyrdom. This shows that, while as Friars Minor, we were born in Assisi in Santa Maria degli Angeli at the Portiuncula, we can say that we were baptised in Marrakech with the blood of the first five martyrs.

The presence in the midst of Islam, desired by Francis of Assisi as indicated in Chapter XVI of the First Rule, shapes the missionary beginnings of the Order: “inculturation, living among the people, as instruments of peace and justice, without promoting disputes or quarrels, with the dialogic witness of faith, showing that one is a Christian; with discernment and recognition of the other and, if it pleases God, proclaiming his word”.

The Custody of Morocco currently has 20 friars, distributed in six friaries throughout the country. The friars come from various countries such as Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, the Philippines, France, Italy, Mexico, Poland, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Slovakia and Spain. As the Custos reports, “the service of the Franciscan Custody in Morocco rests on two fundamental pillars: to support a poor and humble particular church, composed mainly of foreign workers, students and migrants, and to be brothers at the service of Moroccan society through social and cultural projects, living a relationship of friendship and interreligious dialogue with all”.

The friars are engaged in pastoral service in parishes and with the Franciscan Family, in interreligious dialogue, and welcoming and assisting immigrants and prisoners. Br Manuel highlighted how “inter-religious Islamic-Christian dialogue is an instrument at the service of peace and the promotion of justice and universal brotherhood”. He added that “the Franciscan presence in North Africa “is truly charismatic, relevant and prophetic for the whole Order because it embodies the great challenges of the Church and the world today”.