On February 10th-15th, 2019, the Minister General, Michael Perry, OFM and his General Definitory met with the ministers of the two conferences of Asia and Oceania at Baan Phu Waan Pastoral Training Center, Sampran, Thailand. A total of twenty-two (22) ministers came for the occasion, as well as six secretaries and coordinators (Formation & Studies, JPIC, and Missions & Evangelization), representing both conferences. Br. Carolo Ho from the Province of the Holy Korean Martyrs is president of the East Asian Conference (EAC), Br. Yusuf Bagh from the Custody of St. John the Baptist, Pakistan, is president of the South Asia, Australia and Oceania Conference (SAAOC), and the joint conference is known as ‘the Franciscan Conferences of Asia and Oceania (FCAO)’. Our General Statutes mandate that the Government of the Order should meet all the Conferences at least once during its six-year term in order to promote sharing and effective consultation as regards questions of greater importance and the direction of the Order, and to deal with matters that concern the life of the Friars, including collaboration and solidarity among entities (cf. GGSS 202).
After the meeting in Thailand, the Minister General and Definitors proceeded to the Philippines to join in the last two days of the Asia, Australia, Oceania “Under 10” gathering being held at St Paul’s Retreat Center, Alfonso, Cavite, from February 16th-18th. Around 40 young friars from Asia, Australia, and Oceania participated in the meeting. The theme was “Young Asian Friars in a Radically Changing World”. The Minister General gave a talk entitled, “The Franciscan Challenge of Going to the Peripheries”, and there was also time for dialogue and interaction — not only with the Minister General, but also with the General Definitory.
On February 18th, the Minister General and Definitors met with the approximately 60 friars and lay missionaries gathered for the Asian Mission Congress held at the Carmelite Retreat House in Tagaytay, Cavite, Philippines. The Minister General gave an address on “Re-telling the story of Jesus in Asia”.
Finally, from February 18th-20th, the Minister General and the General Definitor for Asia and Oceania made an official visit to the friars of the Province of San Pedro Bautista, Philippines.
“Interfaith dialogue is at the heart of Franciscan spirituality. Therefore it is our obligation as brothers and sisters of Saints Francis and Clare to contribute to it.” It was with this obligation before them that our Brothers in Germany, together with their sisters and brothers in the Inter-Franciscan Working Group in Germany (Interfranziskanische Arbeitsgemeinschaft), developed a special webpage dedicated to the significance of the 800thanniversary of the meeting between St. Francis and Sultan al-Malik al-Kamal for the world today: www.infag.de/seiten/doku.php/1219_religionsdialog.
On this dedicated webpage (available only in German) readers will discover the programs, publications and special events that the Franciscan Family in Germany is organizing to commemorate this special anniversary. As the webpage will be continually updated with new information about events, our Brothers invite you to visit it frequently.
Our Brothers in the Franco-Belgian Province have a long history of dialogue with the followers of Islam, and of placing the experience that is the fruit of that history at the service of the Church and the world. In this spirit, our Brothers in France and Germany have prepared a flyer detailing the many programs, publications, and special events that they are organizing to this 800thanniversary of the encounter between the Saint and the Sultan.
On their flyer (in French) our Brothers share such planned activities as a visit of their Dervish friends to France in March, a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in September, and, in collaboration with the French Bishops Conference’s National Service for Dialogue with Muslims, a study tour to Egypt in November. Our Brothers have also developed a Facebook page detailing these and other events. Please see the flyer for more information.
Brothers and Provinces throughout the Order are invited to share stories of many ways that they will commemorate the 800thanniversary of the encounter between St. Francis and the Sultan. These stories, and accompanying photos, videos, etc, should be sent to the General Secretariat for Missions and Evangelization, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Spiritual Assistants of OFS/ YOUFRA and all Franciscans can now download the 2018 issues of Koinonia:
AS YOU SENT ME INTO THE WORLD,
SO I SENT THEM INTO THE WORLD (Jn 17, 18)
40 years after the Seraphicus Patriarcha
In the year 2018, Secular Franciscans all over the world are commemorating the 40th anniversary of the promulgation of their present Rule by Pope Paul VI with the apostolic letter “Seraphicus Patriarcha” dated 24th June 1978. On this occasion the XV General Chapter of OFS (Seraphicum, Rome, on November 4-11, 2017) invited all its members to reflect on the application of this Rule and how it is to be lived in concrete situations. The Conference of general Assistants (CAS), in the light of the theme of the General Chapter, “As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world” (Jn 17,18), has decided to dedicate the Koinonia of this year to four related topics:
Koinonia 2018-1: “The family as vocation and mission”– Fr. Alfred Parambakathu OFMConv
My dear brothers of the two Conferences comprising the Franciscan Conferences of Asia and Oceania, may the Lord give you his peace!
The concluding words of the Gospel of St. Luke, which are associated with the commemoration of the great Slavic evangelists Cyril, and his brother Methodius have much to say to who we are as Friars Minor in the regions of the human community, Asia and Oceania. “The Kingdom of God is at hand for you!” It is precisely this focus on the Kingdom ministry that serves as the driving force for the work of the Conferences of Bishops, prior to, during, and following upon the Special Synod of the Bishops of Asia and now Saint John Paul II’s post-synodal document, Ecclesia in Africa.
What happens to the Church, to the Order of Friars Minor, to each of us when the values of the Kingdom of God are placed at the center of our lives, our fraternities, our Order, Provinces, Custodies, and Foundations? This is the ‘million dollar’ question to which we are called to give a response. I would like to suggest there are three things that happen – or that could happen – when we place the pursuit of God’s Kingdom at the center of all of who we are and what we do. These same three elements form the nucleus of St. Luke’s understanding of and teaching about the Kingdom ministry carried out in the life of Jesus of Nazareth.
According to the Gospel text we have heard today, it is clear that peace– shalom – is central to Luke’s understanding of the meaning and purpose of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. “In whatever house you enter, first say: “Peace to this household.” This peace is not simply the absence of violence, nor is it a proposal for living a care-free life, devoid of all responsibility or concern for others, for the life of the world. For Luke, peace is intrinsically linked to righteousness, to the pursuit of God’s justice, God’s intention for the world, namely, that it might be reconciled and brought back into one, healed of all divisions. And at the heart of this peace is a deep, abiding encounter with the living God who is the source for shalom, peace, God’s gift to the world.
A second and most essential element of the Kingdom ministry of Jesus is related to minority, being subject to all, as St. Francis would later write in the Regula non bullata (chapter 16, the Missionary instruction). In the first chapter of the Gospel, Luke tells us that the Kingdom is about self-emptying, abandoning one’s own will and allowing God to define who we are and how we act and react to all circumstances of life. This is at the heart of the Canticle or Magnificat. Luke’s vision of the Kingdom runs contrary to major contemporary trends in economics, politics, social life, and even in the Church. These trends include: an economics of exclusion; a materialistic mentality of accumulation that can lead to all forms of abuse (spiritual, sexual, mental, the abuse of the natural environment, and even to clericalism); a focus on self-satisfaction and the pursuit of individual happiness. This is at the heart of Jesus’ critique of the rich fool in chapter 12 of Luke’s Gospel who, today, might go by the name of a hedge fund operator.
What is common to all of these forms of exclusion and self-aggrandizement is that they have absolutely no qualitative relational connection with God or other human beings. In the end, the rich fool lives and dies in absolute isolation, talking to himself, already living in hell. We are called to live out of a very different ‘logic’ – “Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals.” This can only be possible if we are truly, deeply connected to God – Jesus – the Spirit of God, and if we are connected to one another through the gift of fraternity. A spirituality grounded in a theological approach where the Kingdom of God is at the center necessarily requires of us to become God-centered and people-centered disciples. Salvation is all relationship.
Yet a third element contained in today’s Gospel text is that of the urgency of going out to the highways and byways of the world carrying a message of something ‘great’ that we ourselves have experienced – personally and also collectively/fraternally. Thus, evangelical itinerancy is part of the DNA of our Christian, our Franciscan, identity. Pope Francis’ focus in his Apostolic Letter Evangelii gaudium seeks to convince each baptized Christian that he or she is a mission, and thus is missionary. The ‘evangelical’ nature of proclamation, however, takes on a particular form in a context where Christians are in the absolute minority, which is the case in most of Asia with the exception of the Philippines and, to an ever-decreasing extent in Australia and New Zealand. First, the understanding of participation in the life of the Kingdom of God is broadened in a particular way so as to include those who are professed members of other religious traditions (Nostrae aetate). Second, Jesus’ Kingdom ministry reminds us that the Kingdom is not in service to the Church but rather the Church exists for the sake of, and to give concrete expression to, the Kingdom. And third, Jesus’ coming into the world is a single, unrepeatable, unique sign of God’s drawing near to all of humanity, all of creation. But Christ’s coming into the world is to promote the central values of the Kingdom of God. Jesus does not come to proclaim or promote self. Christology does not become a category for promoting an exclusionary theology – ‘ex ecclesia, nulla salus’ menta. A Kingdom approach to Christian life and mission allows us to broaden our categories and to develop a theocentric vision, one that enables us to enter into authentic dialogue with ‘the other’, with the world of today. In this context, we become joy-filled bearers of the love, mercy, joy, peace, and hope of the Gospel that we ourselves have received, towards which we are continually being converted, and to which we are called to give witness through our daily lives.
Peace – Minority – Theocentric itinerancy: these are the essential ingredients of the Gospel itinerancy lived out in the life of Jesus and proposed to us by St. Luke. These also are contained in the challenges put forth to the entire Order by the Plenary Council of 2018 (PCO, Nairobi), calling each of us to enter into a new spirit of listening, discerning, and going forth, a going forth prophetically. We read in the conclusion of the final Document of the PCO:
“The Father is calling us, Friars Minor, to live and act prophetically and in fraternity in today’s world. Prophetic living means being a living witness to love, mercy, and goodness of God and a sign of a Church who is mother of all, with particular care for the poor, the most fragile and suffering people, and those who are migrants and refugees…Prophetic living and acting means going beyond pastoral activity that is mere maintenance, and instead committing ourselves to a wider evangelization by offering everyone the Lord’s message of salvation…[living] a way of life in which all the strengths and abilities that the Lord has given us to build the Kingdom of God are spent in its service” (PCO 178).
Brothers, let us begin!
Br. Michael A. Perry, ofm Minister General
Closing Mass for the Meetings with the Franciscan Conferences of Asia and Oceania Bangkok, Thailand, 14 February 2019
On February 8, the World Day of Prayer and Reflection against Human Trafficking has been celebrated since 2015 by Pope Francis. It is the memorial of Saint Josephine Bakhita, a religious of Sudanese origin who was a victim of slavery for many years in her life. The Day is promoted worldwide, mainly by Talitha Kum, the International Network of Catholic Religious against human trafficking, through its International Committee.
Various activities have been carried out this year around the world, praying and reflecting, to raise awareness on this problem that mainly affects women, boys and girls. The motto chosen for 2019 is “Together Against Human Trafficking,” since it is a problem to which no one can remain indifferent, nor can it be approached by an individual, and we need joint actions.
In Rome, two public activities were carried out. On the memorial of St. Josephine Bakhita, we gathered to pray together at the prayer vigil with the theme, “Shed a Light against Human Trafficking.” About 500 people, mostly religious, gathered at the Basilica of San Antonio (Antonianum). There also was a group of religious who completed the Training Course for leaders of the networks against human trafficking, offered by the Talitha Kum in collaboration with the Pontifical University Antonianum.
On Sunday, the 10th of February, many people participated in a public march from the Castel Sant’Angelo towards St. Peter’s Square. During the march, the prayer-cards for the victims of human trafficking was distributed to the people who gathered in the square to participate in the Angelus with the Pope. At noon, Pope Francis led the Angelus and addressed words of gratitude for those who work against human trafficking, especially the religious. He also urged governments: “I make a special appeal to governments to address with determination the causes of this scourge and protect the victims.” Finally, he invited everyone to pray for the intercession of St. Josephine Bakhita.