The Minister General celebrates in the Basilica of Our Lady of Graces in Benevento

It was 3 April 1723 when, in Benevento Cathedral, Cardinal Vincenzo Maria Orsini adorned the statue of Our Lady of Graces, carrying the baby Jesus in her arms, with two golden crowns. The figure of the Virgin – the work of the artist Giovanni Meriliano da Nola (1476/78 – 1553), which can still be seen today – was solemnly displayed in the cathedral until the following 6 April, when the procession wound its way through the main streets of the city.

In preparation for the celebrations of the third centenary of the coronation of Our Lady of Graces statue – which will fall on 3 April 2023 – the Minister General, Br Massimo Fusarelli, presided at a Eucharistic celebration on Saturday 2 April. Welcoming Br Massimo to the Basilica of Our Lady of Graces in Benevento was Br Antonio Tremigliozzi, Minister of the Franciscan Province of Sannio and Irpinia, dedicated to Our Lady of Graces.

“The gesture of crowning images of the Mother of God expresses the faith and love of the Holy People of God for her whom we invoke as Mother of mercy, the face of the Father’s tenderness, the icon of the Church, minister of forgiveness and mercy”, said the Minister General in his homily. “We crown Mary, and we say to her once again: Hail Queen, Mother of Mercy!”.

Br Massimo invited the faithful to believe that this year will be a time of mercy, of hope: “Pandemics and conflicts have marked this last period of our history and continue to mark it. It is difficult to see a viable way of mercy in the violence and conflict inflaming Europe today. Yet, this year can be an opportunity, especially for this Benevento Church and the friars of this Province. A chance to rediscover the reasons for hope in the sign of the Mother of Mercy”, said the Minister General. The people of Benevento, too, so devoted to Our Lady, are called to experience the Virgin’s love for all humanity, “especially for peoples overwhelmed by war, which is always sacrilegious, never just”.

Br Massimo invoked Mary so that she might intercede for the whole fraternity of the Minors: “May this hour enable us to welcome the radical beauty and charism of St Francis in the sign of mercy and a more convinced, more visible and concrete poverty, more solidarity. This sets us free, gives wings to our future and frees us from the burdens of a past and a present that are often heavy”.

At the end of the celebration, the Minister General renewed the act of consecration to Our Lady of Graces and asked for the gift of peace for all humanity: “Silence the absurd voice of arms, infuse projects of peace in the powerful of the earth, in the parents who mourn their children, in the women and children endangered in the flight from their homes; look at the fathers who fight and are separated from their families. Support peace negotiations for the common good; reach out to the hardness of hearts, even Christians, who are unable to have thoughts of peace according to the Gospel in this dramatic hour”.

Beatrice Guarrera