04 Jun Pope Francis on the Eighth Centenary of the Franciscan Protomartyrs and the Franciscan Vocation of St. Anthony
2020 marks the eighth centenary of the death of the Franciscan Protomartyrs and the entry into the Friars Minor of the Augustinian Canon Fernando of Lisbon, taking the name of Antonio. For this reason the feast of the Saint of Padua takes on a special significance as Pope Francis points out in his letter to Friar Carlos Alberto Trovarelli, Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual.
I was pleased to learn that this Order shall be joyfully celebrating the Eighth Centenary of the Franciscan vocation of St. Anthony of Padua. Eight hundred years ago, in Coimbra, Fernando, a young member of the Augustinian Canons Regular and a native of Lisbon, learned of the martyrdom of five Franciscans who were killed because of the Christian faith, in Morocco, on January 16 of that year. He decided to turn his life around.
He left his homeland and set out on a journey, a symbol of his spiritual journey of conversion. First he went to Morocco, courageously determined to experience the Gospel in the footsteps of the Franciscan friars who had been martyred there. Then he landed in Sicily after being shipwrecked on the Italian coast, an event which happens to so many our brothers and sisters today. From Sicily, God’s providential plan led him to meet up with St. Francis of Assisi on the roads of Italy and France. Finally, he moved to Padua, a city which will always be linked in a special way with his name and where his body is preserved.
I hope that this significant anniversary will arouse, especially in the Franciscan Religious and the devotees of St. Anthony around the world, the desire to experience the same holy restlessness that prompted St. Anthony to travel the roads of the world bearing witness, through word and deed, to the love of God. May his example of sharing in the difficulties of families, the poor and disadvantaged, as well as his passion for truth and justice, still arouse in us today a generous commitment to give of ourselves as a sign of fraternity. I am thinking most of all about the young: this saint, so ancient and yet so modern and brilliant in his insights, can be a model for new generations to follow, so that their journey may be made fruitful.
I associate myself spiritually with all those who shall participate, through prayer and charity, in the various initiatives being promoted for this Eighth Antonian Centenary. I hope that all of you may be able to say, along with St. Anthony: “I see my Lord!” We must “see the Lord” in the faces of all our brothers and sisters and offer them consolation, hope and the opportunity to encounter the Word of God, upon which they may anchor their lives.
With these sentiments, while asking you to pray also for me, I cordially send my Apostolic Blessing to the Family of Friars Minor Conventual and to all those who are inspired by the spirituality of St. Anthony of Padua.
Rome, St. John Lateran, 15 February 2020
See also (in Italian): vaticannews.va