From 3 to 18 July 2021, the General Chapter of the Order of Friars Minor will be held in Rome, with the theme of Renewing Our Vision, Embracing Our Future.
The 118 Capitulars who are expected at this celebration of our worldwide brotherhood will gather at the Capuchin International College of St Lawrence of Brindisi, which is located around halfway between Leonardo Da Vinci Airport in Fiumicino, and the historical centre of Rome.
This upcoming historic 15-day General Chapter in Rome promises to be a special one in more ways than one. In the present uncertain times in our world, we Friars Minor give thanks for the gift of Faith and Fraternity that are certain, for experiences of Goodness and Beauty that are all around, and for Hope that springs eternal in the human heart. Let us pray for our Capitulars and our entire Order, that we may respond joyfully to the exhortation of the Epistle to the Ephesians, “Arise…and Christ will give you Light” (Ep. 5:14).
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Fr. Augusto Zampini and Fr. Michael Perry gathered for the prayer meeting organized in Rome by the Global Catholic Climate Movement to mark the Laudato Si’ week celebrations. The meeting took place simultaneously in Assisi with Bishop Domenico Sorrentino and via web, entrusting the mandate to spread the Gospel of Creation and care for our common home to Laudato Si’ animators, young people, pastoral workers and faithful in general.
“In the mission of the Church every baptized person has received a gift from the Holy Spirit that must be developed by participating in the mission itself”, and as regards Laudato Si’, this “is the care for our common home.” The words of Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, on Sunday in speaking to Vatican News on the missionary mandate entrusted to Laudato Si’ animators of the Global Catholic Climate Movement, pastoral workers, young people and all people of good will. Pope Francis had announced this a few hours earlier at the Regina Coeli, when he spoke of the “mandate to spread the Gospel of Creation and to care for our common home.”
The prayer meeting
Monday marks the sixth anniversary of Pope Francis’ encyclical on caring for our common home, published on May 24, 2015. During Laudato Si’ Week, a time marking the conclusion of the special Year called by the Pope as a way to reflect on and put into practice points in the document. Cardinal Tagle led the prayer meeting at the General Curia of the Friars Minor in Rome on Pentecost Sunday, the time we celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit inaugurating the Church’s mission.
Rome, Assisi and the five continents
The celebration, followed via web throughout the world, began with remarks by Bishop Domenico Sorrentino of Assisi in a video link-up with the Shrine of Saint Dominic in the Umbrian town. He explained that this is the place where Saint Francis “began to build his house”, opening his heart and responding to the Lord’s call to “mission, action, taking initiative”. He said today “you are the missionaries: go and repair our common home”, addressing the animators present and those watching from the five continents. Executive Director of the Global Catholic Climate Movement, Tomás Insua, coordinated the event
A proclamation for all time
In his remarks, Cardinal Tagle noted that at Pentecost “we know that the Risen Christ continues to be with us”. The Archbishop Emeritus of Manila spoke inviting all to “be witnesses of His truth to the world”, even and especially at this time of crisis due to the pandemic. To experience Christ, he continued, “is to know that Jesus accompanies us”, as He did with his disciples. Mission, he added is a “lifelong call”, a “proclamation for all time”, and means to “accompany others”.
A Church always reaching out
Father Augusto Zampini, adjunct secretary of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and a member of the Vatican Covid-19 Commission echoed Cardinal Tagle by saying “the Gospel of Creation is linked to a Church that is reaching out…that takes care of our common home and others in every part of the planet. This is the beauty of the missionary dimension: to bring the Gospel message and Laudato Si’ on caring for our common home and others, to every part of the world”, in every sector of society, recalling also how the Pope calls for “a profound change in the economy, which is ill because it causes inequalities, social diseases, conflicts and damage to creation” Father Zampini added.
A beacon of light
The “yes” to the missionary mandate came from animators from Rio de Janerio, Nairobi, Washington, Rome and Assisi, an acceptance of responsibility to “hear the cry of the Earth and of the poor”, the unfortunate victims of suffering and deprivation in India as well as in Brazil, whom Father Michael Perry, Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor, recalled in his talk: “they are people who really carry the Cross” and to whom “we must give an opportunity”, with a view towards fraternity and the missionary mandate. The final commitment taken is to express everywhere “kindness, love and humility” in order to be, as Cardinal Tagle underscored when lighting a candle together with the participants, “a beacon of light in the life of the Church and the world”.
Letter from the Minister General to the whole Order on the Solemnity of Pentecost 2021
All were filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-12)
May the Lord give you peace!
Tradition has always dictated that the General Chapter of the Order coincide with the Feast of Pentecost, in accordance with the wish expressed by St. Francis himself in texts such as the Earlier Rule (cf. ER 18, 2), and reiterated in the Later Rule: “When he [the General Minister] dies, let the election of his successor be made by the provincial ministers and custodians in the Chapter of Pentecost, at which all the provincial ministers are bound to assemble in whatever place the general minister may have designated.” (LR 8, 2) This year, for reasons that we all know too well, we have been forced to postpone this important event to the month of July, hoping that government regulations and requirements will allow it to take place then.
Dear brothers, I would not like to miss the opportunity to address you all on the Solemnity of Pentecost, to share with you what this liturgical celebration inspires in my heart. At the same time, I want to hand over to the Lord, and to all of you, the many blessings that I have experienced during my years of service as Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor (Cf. ER 17, 17-18). I would like this restitution to be expressed through my profound and heartfelt gratitude to the entire Order, to the Poor Clares and Conceptionists, and to the wider Franciscan Family, for the ways in which you have helped me to see how the gift of fraternity is a powerful and effective means of listening to the voice of God and fulfilling what is asked of us with fidelity, perseverance, and love.
The profound relationship that the Poverello of Assisi cultivated with the person of the Holy Spirit is deeply inspiring. This can be seen from the frequency with which the third person of the Holy Trinity is mentioned both in the Saint’s writings and in the hagiographical sources. (Cf. ER 17,14; LR 10, 8-10; 2LtF 10,48; LM 9,3, etc.). Francis felt the outpouring and the presence of the Spirit so closely that he attributed the guidance and direction of the Order to the Holy Spirit, calling the Spirit the Minister of the Order. As Thomas of Celano tells us: “’With God,’ [Francis] would say, ‘there is no partiality, and the Holy Spirit, the general minister of the religion, rests equally upon the poor and simple.’ He really wanted to put these words in the Rule, but the papal seal already given to the rule precluded it.” (2C 145).
I am particularly struck by this observation of the biographer because, in a certain sense, it provides a revealing link to the scene described in the Acts of the Apostles which is one of the prescribed texts for the Solemnity of Pentecost: “Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” (cf. Acts 2:2) The word “all“, which appears six times, is key to our appreciation of the author’s intention to indicate an all-embracing experience: all of the house (v.2); all were filled with the Holy Spirit (v.4); all the nations (v.5); all those who are not Galileans (v.7); we heard them all speak (v.11); they were all amazed (v.12). Moreover, the word “each” is repeated three times, confirming this powerful idea of inclusion and the desire for the widest possible participation in the experience of the Spirit. Francis, on his part, considers the outpouring of the Spirit a blessing for all because… “with God there is no partiality.” (2 Cel 145)
I would like to consider this idea further because during my time of service as Minister General I have been able to see that we must continue to work tirelessly to combat what Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si’ calls the throwaway culture. This is directly connected with another theme expressed by the phrase ‘the globalization of indifference’ (cf. Message of the Holy Father Francis for the Celebration of the 49th World Day of Peace, January 1st, 2016). These phenomena arise from and promote racism, xenophobia, and the emergence of populist figures who proclaim that these are messianic times when society as it ‘should be’ can be established. Such a way of thinking worries me deeply, because it slowly enters in and begins to take over, like weeds among the wheat (cf. Mt 13:24-52). It dramatically fragments not only the political environment of our countries but threatens the integrity of our societies and families. It even comes knocking on the doors of some of our local fraternities.
The passage from the Acts of the Apostles that narrates the extraordinary action of the Spirit clearly sheds light on this reality because the event takes place in circumstances that are extraordinarily varied — full of diversity, differences, nuances, and ways of being that do not admit of uniformity. It is a situation characterized by pluralism, variety, and movement (a noise like a strong driving wind, v. 2). Nothing is still, everything is in motion, something is happening, someone is coming. All those filled with the Holy Spirit began to express …. what the Spirit was giving them (cf. v. 4).
The Pentecost event, in addition to suggesting the characteristic scenario of Old Testament theophanies, is also linked to other moments in which an important person is assisted in a special way by the Spirit (e.g., John the Baptist, Lk 1:15; Elizabeth, Lk 1:41; Zechariah Lk 1:67; Peter, Acts 4:8; Saul, Acts 9:17, 13:9). However, the fullness of the Spirit that the Apostles experience in Acts 2:4 is characterized by a remarkable feature. Pentecost marks the beginning of the time of the Church, a new way that had already been proclaimed by Jesus, in which he would be present among his followers every day until the end of the world (cf. Mt 28:16-20). The action performed by the Holy Spirit, that is, the tongues of fire that “divided” and “rested” on each one, immediately makes us think of the “charismatic” gift that the Apostles received to carry out their preaching and mission. Fire, the symbol par excellence of the divine presence, indicates God’s desire to envelop — almost to invade — the entire community present, succeeding in driving out every shadow of fear and giving an inner strength capable of transforming the hearts of those present, thus creating authentic communion.
Pope Francis says: “When we are healthy and comfortable, we forget about others (something God the Father never does): we are unconcerned with their problems, their sufferings and the injustices they endure… Our heart grows cold. As long as I am relatively healthy and comfortable, I don’t think about those less well off.” (Ibid. Message for 49th World Day of Peace). Following the horrific murder of George Floyd in Minnesota, USA on May 20th, 2020, a wave of reaction came to prominence in many parts of the world. It led to public protests stretching from Minneapolis (USA) to Manaus (Brazil), from New York to Johannesburg, from Paris to Jakarta. Unfortunately, we have to recognise that systematic racism, classism, the caste system, and other kinds of exclusion are also present in our Order and Church.
I have been able to read some testimonies that have been sent to me by friars in which they speak about their experiences of racism or exclusion within society and within the Order itself. They recount moments of intense humiliation, a sense of betrayal, and a deep rupture in the fabric of fraternal communion. The stories told by our brothers also reveal the reality that too many of us are willing to turn a blind eye to situations of direct or indirect violations of human dignity. The Feast of Pentecost that we celebrate today challenges us with radical demands. It calls us to “wake up” to the realities around and within us, to be more aware of those structures and events that express attitudes directly contrary to our human, Christian, and Franciscan vocation. The Spirit urges us to undergo a radical conversion of mind, heart, and action (cf. Eph 4:23-32) and to embrace God’s vision for all of humanity and the created universe. Pentecost reminds us that all are welcome, all are respected, all are invited to offer their unique and distinct contributions, all share the same dignity and destiny. The gift of the Spirit is “a blessing to all because… with God there is no partiality!”
I believe, my dear brothers, that celebrating Pentecost should encourage us to have experiences that shake the foundations of our security and drive away any internal fears we may have about always reaching out to others. Pentecost should help open our eyes (cf. Lk 24: 13-35) to appreciate the richness of diversity, to delight in the wonderful variety of forms, colours, ways, mentalities, approaches, opinions, and perspectives. If we are still afraid of stepping out of our comfort zones, or of creating spaces where we can participate in different ways of seeing, of appreciating, and of judging, then now is the time to be open to “the Spirit of the Lord and Its holy activity” (cf. LR 10, 8).
Let us continue to pray for our forthcoming General Chapter, that the Spirit of the Lord, the true Minister General of the Order, may grant us a time of grace and inspiration for the good of the Order, the Church, and the world that we inhabit.
Happy Feast of Pentecost!
Br. Michael A. Perry, OFM Minister General and Servant
With the slogan, “we know that things can change” (LS 13), a new version of Laudato Si’ Week will be celebrated between May 16 and 24, 2021, to commemorate once again the anniversary of the publication of this encyclical.
Laudato Si’ Week is an initiative sponsored by the Vatican, through the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and promoted by the World Catholic Movement for Climate with whom we collaborate closely. This year we celebrate the VI Anniversary of the Encyclical and the closing of a special year of Laudato Si’, a time that has been marked by reflection, discernment and actions in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. By celebrating Laudato Si’ Week, we renew our commitment as Franciscans to social and environmental justice, care and respect for creation, and intergenerational solidarity.
We extend the invitation to participate in Laudato Si’ Week to all the fraternities of the Order through the JPIC Offices of each entity and to the Franciscan Family. The following are the initiatives that will be carried out or will be presented during the week of May 16 through 24:
Thursday, May 20th
Prayer Network for the Care of Creation
This network is made up of congregations and religious orders from various countries that wish to pray and intercede for a world more similar to the Creator’s dream. Several monasteries of Poor Clare Sisters have joined. You can register your fraternity here: https://laudatosipray.org/
Laudato Si’ Festival, “Songs for Creation”
This cultural festival will address the issue of the loss of biodiversity in the world. An online event that will be broadcast from the terrace of our General Curia in Rome. Among the guests is Fr. Sandesh Manuel, OFM who composed “rap Laudato Si’ Revolution” and “Listen to the wind.” Follow this event on facebook.com/ofm.org.
Pentecost, prayer meeting
A missionary dispatch will be carried out for all Laudato Si’ animators and agents of evangelization. The liturgy will be presided over by Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and will have the participation of the Bishop of Assisi, Bishop Domenico Sorrentino. It will be broadcast live from the Sanctuary of San Damiano in Assisi and from the General Curia in Rome. Follow this event on facebook.com/ofm.org.
Presentation of the Laudato Si’ Platform for Action and the Laudato Si’ Goals
As part of the multi-year plan proposed last year, the first steps of this ambitious 7-year project will be revealed. The plan seeks to unleash processes that will make communities around the world fully sustainable in the spirit of the holistic ecology of Laudato Si. As Franciscans we are already involved in this path together with other organizations of the Church.
We invite you to join in and share. You can register your activities and see the calendar of all events on the official website of Laudato Si’ Week: https://laudatosiweek.org/