Celebrating the fifth anniversary of the Laudato Si’ Encyclical (24 May 2020), Pope Francis declared a special anniversary year, and the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development presented the proposed “Laudato Si’ Action Platform” (PDF: English – Español – Italiano). They invited various institutions to get going and start a seven-year journey towards full sustainability. This multi-year initiative aims to make communities around the world fully sustainable in the spirit of Laudato Si’s integral ecology.
As Franciscans, we have joined this great initiative through the JPIC Office. Let us recall that on the fifth anniversary of the Encyclical, the JPIC offices of the Order and the Franciscan Family joined the “Laudato Si’ Revolution” campaign by carrying out various national, regional and international initiatives. Taking advantage of this momentum of the spirit, we wish to take part in the “Laudato Si’ Action Platform”.
During these last few weeks, the JPIC Office has held some engagement and collaboration meetings with the “Care of Creation” section coordinated by Fr Joshtrom Isaac Kureethadam, SDB. In these online meetings, we have been able to share the various initiatives that the Order has been developing in the light of the Encyclical and the Plenary Council of the Order. At the same time, they have shared with us and informed us how the process of the “Laudato Si’ Action Platform” is developing. This has allowed us to join the “Religious Orders Laudato Si’” working team, and we have been invited to be part of the steering committee of the 7-year Laudato Si’ platform.
Also, as a way of collaborating and being part of the “Laudato Si’ Action Platform”, the JPIC Office has started to work on some proposals to offer to the whole Order and the Franciscan Family during Laudato Si’ week on the sixth anniversary of the Encyclical. These proposals complement the campaign begun last year, as it is a new impulse to the work that several Entities in the Order have already started. We look to the future, with hope, to the “Laudato Si’ Revolution: Integral Ecology in Action”.
His Excellency Mr. António Guterres Secretary General United Nations Headquarters New York, NY 10017 United States
Rome, March 12, 2021
Dear Secretary General Guterres,
In the words of St. Francis of Assisi, May the Lord give you peace!
I write to you today in my capacity as the Minister General and Servant of the Order of Friars Minor (Franciscans), some 12,500 Catholic religious brothers and priests present and working in 116 countries, to express deep sadness and grave concern with the ongoing repression of millions of citizens in Myanmar following a military coup.
Our Franciscans in Myanmar have witnessed firsthand the brutality of the security forces and the insecurity this has created. Reports on the ground, and the report of your Special Rapporteur, Mr. Thomas H. Andrews (March 11, 2021) confirm that coordinated violence continues to escalate on a daily basis resulting in the deaths of at least 70 civilians, arbitrary detentions of thousands of those engaged in peaceful protests, destruction of legal protections, severe restrictions on access to internet and communications, and the subversion of the will of the people of Myanmar expressed in the November 2020 elections.
I wish to thank you for the actions that your office has taken to call attention to the situation in Myanmar, especially the work of your Special Envoy to the country. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that now is the time for the international community to act in a united, decisive manner to protect against further loss of life, destruction of property, and to ensure the restoration of the democratically elected government of Myanmar without delay. This should include requiring that the military junta immediately desist from using excessive force against the people of Myanmar, the release of those who are illegally detained, restoration of protections guaranteed by law, including the right to peacefully protest.
Our Franciscan men who are living and working in Myanmar have asked me to intercede for the people of Myanmar. I include in this mailing a letter they have asked me to forward to you.
May the people of Myanmar once again experience a return to democracy, and may the current crisis find a peaceful and lasting resolution.
Br. Michael A. Perry, OFM Minister General and Servant
Order of Friars Minor One Year Since COVID-19 was declared a Global Pandemic March 11, 2021
My dear Brothers,
May the Lord give you peace!
On March 11, 2021 the world will mark one year since the World Health Organization declared Sars2-COVID-19 a global pandemic. On that date, there were 118,000 verified infections, and 4,291 verified deaths from COVID-19, with 114 countries reporting the presence of the virus. As of February 26, 2021, there have been nearly 112,000,000 confirmed infections, and nearly 2,500,000 deaths from COVID-19, with 192 countries now directly affected by the pandemic. What also is clear is the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has upon our poor brothers and sisters and upon the world’s poorer nations.
I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that everyone of us in the Order knows someone who has become infected, and perhaps someone who has died. It is difficult to verify exactly how many of our beloved Friars have died as a result of complications from COVID-19, but the numbers are significant. Fraternities have been quarantined. Individual Friars have been isolated in hospital or in Provincial or Custodial infirmaries or in other care facilities. Family members have been infected and, sadly, some have died. A significant number of ‘survivors’ of COVID-19 are reporting long-term effects, including exhaustion, respiratory difficulties, heart abnormalities, and other difficulties for which they are now under medical care. One cannot even begin to fathom the psycho-social impact of the pandemic due to fear of contagion, social isolation, and the triggering of other long-standing mental health conditions. They affect not only those unknown to us; they affect our lives as well.
The COVID-19 pandemic is rewriting the history of the world, and, more importantly, the history of each of our lives, the life of the Order, and the Church. We do not know the full weight of collateral ‘damage’ that might come as a consequence of the pandemic, but we already are sensing increased challenges that touch every aspect of our lives, our institutions, and our evangelizing presence in the world today. It is my prayer that each of you has been able to take sufficient time to reflect on the impact of the pandemic on your life, on the other brothers in the fraternity, on your pastoral and missionary work, and on the lives of those whom we have been called to serve.
As we draw near to March 11, 2021, the first year since the official declaration of the Sars2-COVID-19 pandemic, I invite all of you, my dear brothers, to join with the universal Fraternity of the Order for a time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. These three ‘methods’ find precedence in the Sacred Scriptures and offer an opportunity for those who embrace them to enter into a spirit of conversion of mind, heart, and action (Cf. Joel 1:14ff). Find attached to this letter two prayers that have been composed as a response to the pandemic. They are prayers calling upon God to hear the cry of God’s people and to come to our aid. In the spirit of fasting proposed by the Prophets (Cf. Is 58:6-7) and by Jesus (Cf. Mt. 6:16-18), the focus clearly is on a radical change of heart and mind and is also linked with acts that contribute to the liberation of God’s people by uniting our efforts in one great act of solidarity, something so much needed in our world prior to and as a consequence of the COVID pandemic. This is the focus of Pope Francis’s message in Fratelli Tutti when speaking about the need for the entire world to undergo a radical conversion (Fratelli Tutti 32,55). Finally, I urge you to take time to talk to one another and express how the COVID pandemic has affected your personal life, your involvement with the fraternity, your missionary engagements, and other challenges you are facing. It would most appropriate if the local fraternities could celebrate the Eucharist together on this day of prayer. The moment of dialogue could take place in a special house chapter or during the time for the homily at the Eucharist.
May we unite as the one universal brotherhood on this occasion the first year since COVID was declared a pandemic. Let us call upon Mary, Mother of the Seraphic Order, and all of the saints of the Order to intercede to God on our behalf, and on behalf of all of humanity. May the gift of our fraternity be a source of constant support and encouragement as together we face an uncertain future. May we reflect the love and mercy of God who is always present with us, most especially during these most difficult times, inviting us to stand up and lift up our heads, to see that we are not alone (Cf. Lk. 21:28).
Let us pray for all who continue to suffer the direct physical consequences of COVID-19. Let us pray, also, for all those who are affected socially, spiritually, and economically. And let us remember all of our brothers and sisters who have passed from this life and who now enjoy fullness of life in God’s kingdom.
Rome, March 1st, 2021
Fraternally yours in Christ and St. Francis,
Br. Michael A. Perry, OFM Minister General and Servant
PRAYER FOR MARCH 11, 2021
Almighty and eternal God, our refuge in every danger, to whom we turn in our distress; in faith we pray look with compassion on the afflicted, grant eternal rest to the dead, comfort to mourners, healing to the sick, peace to the dying, strength to healthcare workers, wisdom to our leaders and the courage to reach out to all in love, so that together we may give glory to your holy name. (Collect of Mass in time of Pandemic)
Strengthen the bonds of our spiritual fraternity, That we might give witness to your presence and healing love Through the way we care for one another, And for the way we reach out to our brothers and sisters most in need, Especially those most affected by the pandemic. We call upon the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Seraphic Order, St. Francis, St. Clare, and all of the seraphic saints, Asking that they intercede on our behalf to the God of all mercy. We make this our prayer through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen
Lord Jesus, Who promised to remain with us always, When information overwhelms us and fear overtakes us. speak to us again those comforting words, “Peace be with you.” Though we cannot be physically close to others, give us the ability and courage to love as well as we can, Since “perfect love casts out all fear.” Direct your caring gaze on doctors and nurses, researchers and safety personnel. Come to strengthen the sick, vulnerable, and comfort those who are grief stricken. And when the pandemic has passed, and this frightening crisis is resolved, teach us to know You more certainly as our dearest Friend and our only Hope. You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever, Amen. (Adaptation of ‘Prayer in a Time of Pandemic’, Diocese of Cork) (offer one Our Father. One Hail Mary, and the Glory be….) Our Lady, Mother of Perpetual Help, pray for us.
Before the revolution in Cuba, there were 104 friars in seventeen communities spread in various parts of the country. Today, there are six friars: four from other countries (Mexico, USA, Guatemala and Ireland) and two Cubans; one who made his solemn profession in 2020 and was ordained a deacon at the end of January 2021, and an 80-year-old who returned to Cuba in 1960 as a priest, just after the Revolutionaries came to power. There are three simply professed Cuban friars studying in the Dominican Republic, and there are a number of young men interested in the Franciscan way of life. The friars live in two fraternities in the capital of Havana.
The Cuban presence is a semi-autonomous delegation of the Arántzazu Province (Spain) since June 2020 and also part of the Custody of Our Lady of Hope (with two other countries: the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico).
Cuba is not the easiest of missionary locations, as attested to by the experience of numerous congregations who have found it difficult to find suitable candidates willing to come and stay for a reasonable period of time. Yet, there is always hope that friars from different entities will feel called to the challenge of this mission. For now, our vocation is one of presence and accompaniment of the people (many of whom have suffered decades of religious intolerance and whose trust need to be regained). Besides parish ministry, we want to get to know the needs of the local church to offer popular missions in the different parts of the country. One specific dream is to open another presence outside Havana and eventually take back a historically significant presence which still belongs to the Order, where friars over the centuries moved out on missions around the country.
The future of the Franciscan OFM presence in Cuba depends mainly on an increase in local vocations, but there will also be a continued push to promote Cuba as a missionary destination. Anyone reading this article is invited to consider coming to Cuba. Those interested could request the orientation document aimed to help friars discern this particular vocation by emailing Br. Francisco Gearóid Ó Conaire at firstname.lastname@example.org. The document is available in English, Spanish and Italian.