The Franciscans in Libya

Throughout the XII and the XVII centuries, Christians who had been captured by corsairs and kept in slavery gave birth to the Christian presence in Tripoli, Libya. Among them were a small number of Franciscans who upon being freed in 1630 remained in the city to offer assistance to the Catholic slaves. In 1643, the Franciscan Mission was founded in Tripoli eventually elevated to Apostolic Vicariate entrusted to the Order in 1912 by Pius XI.

Religious life in Tripoli was quite intense, so much that in 1952 the procession of Corpus Domini began to take place. On 1st September 1969, a group of army officers led by Muammar Gaddafi claimed power and founded the Libyan-Arab Republic. In July 1970, the Revolutionary Council ordered the confiscation of all Italian and church property. In September of the same year, the Vicar Apostolic of Benghazi was expelled and the Cathedral in Tripoli closed and transformed into a Mosque. The Libyan Government conceded the Church of Saint Francis for the use of the Catholics. To date, this is the only functioning church in Tripoli.

With the revolution of 2011, many of the friars and all the women’s congregations except the Missionaries of Charity left the country. Currently, the presence of the Church in Tripoli consists of six Sisters, the Vicar Apostolic, Mgr. George Bugeja OFM, and Br. Magdy Helmy OFM from Egypt. In Benghazi, two friars minister: The Apostolic Administrator, Br. Sandro Overend Rigillo OFM, with Br. Piotr Borkowski OFM from Poland.

The last years have not been easy due to the various situations of fighting and instability including the situation of migrants and refugees. A situation currently improving with the forthcoming elections on 24th December 2021. Embassies are returning, as are foreign workers from Egypt, Italy, Malta, Turkey and others. Presently the Church is ministering to Filipinos, Nigerians, South Sudanese along with other smaller communities coming from India and the Ivory Coast.

The Franciscans in Libya are looking for two friars, one for Tripoli and one for Benghazi who would be able to give at least a period of one year in this ministry entrusted to the Order. Knowing the English language is necessary since it is the language that is used for liturgical celebrations. Anyone who is interested or who would like to acquire more information can contact them through the General Curia’s Missions and Evangelisation Office by sending an email to missgen@ofm.org