General Curia Archives - US Franciscans
Franciscans International: Statement on the human rights impact of the COVID-19 pandemic

Franciscans International: Statement on the human rights impact of the COVID-19 pandemic

As we, the entire staff of Franciscans International, are confined but healthy in our respective homes in Switzerland, the USA, and France, we are made more aware every day of our privileged situation, despite the unusual and uneasy circumstances in which confinement is putting us.

In the first weeks of this crisis, we were carefully observing not only the development of the situation but also the reaction of the United Nations (UN), other human rights experts, and States. We continue to do so. However, as it has become clear that the epidemic has definitively turned into a pandemic with a terrible death toll and that extraordinary measures will last for months, our Franciscan Sisters and Brothers, colleagues, and friends from various parts of the world are reaching out to share with us the dire situations they are experiencing, confronted with, and witnessing. It is to relay some of these testimonies and stories and to put them in a more global picture that we issue this statement today. From a human rights perspective, the issues raised by the pandemic are manifold and the impacts numerous at various levels.

From the failure of States to take the necessary measures to prevent such situations…

The last months have shown how some States have failed to take timely and necessary measures to protect the health of their populations, thus failing to comply with their international human rights obligations to protect the right to health. According to the UN,1 this protection shall include prevention, treatment and control of diseases that requires, among others “the creation of a system of urgent medical care in cases of (…) epidemics and similar health hazards, and the provision of disaster relief and humanitarian assistance in emergency situations.” Moreover, under international human rights law, the right to life also imposes a duty on States to protect life by taking adequate measures to ensure timely access to essential goods and services such as food and water, and to provide effective emergency health services or shelters.

Download and read the full statement of Franciscans International:

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Message for the Month of Ramadan 2020

Message for the Month of Ramadan 2020

To our Muslim brothers and sisters throughout the world:

As-salaamu ‘alaykum! Peace be with you!

On behalf of the Special Commission for Dialogue with Islam of the Order of Friars Minor, it gives me great pleasure once again to extend our greetings to you as you celebrate of the holy month of Ramadan.

This year our letter comes to you at a time when together we are experiencing great sadness and struggle in the world as we remember the many people of all faiths who have succumbed to the COVID-19 virus over the past few months, and the many more who are suffering illness even now. We pray with you for those who have died – may Allah have mercy on them – for those who mourn their passing, and for the health and wellbeing of all people.

In addition to claiming the lives of so many and disrupting our daily lives of work and study, and caring for our families, it has also dramatically affected the way we pray and worship. Around the world, holy places are empty. In Jerusalem, the synagogues, churches and mosques – in which Allah’s name is so often invoked (al-Ḥajj 22.40) stand silent. At the Two Holy Sanctuaries of Mecca and Medina, the adhān calls only local residents to prayer instead of believers from around the world. In Rome, St. Peter’s Square and Basilica remain closed to Catholic pilgrims and the Christian faithful. In cities, towns and villages around the world, people of faith are unable to pray as a community in their houses of worship due to social distancing and lockdowns, enforced by governments and religious leaders to prevent the spread of the virus.

This situation is made even more difficult because holy days and this holy month must be observed behind closed doors, contrary to the spirit of these celebrations. The Christian community worldwide celebrated Holy Week and Easter without the richly symbolic liturgies to which so many look forward, without the communal observances that remind us how to walk in the way of the Messiah Jesus (upon him be peace!).

Now you are observing the month of Ramadan in a similarly simple and stark fashion. It is, in many ways, the antithesis of Ramadan which traditionally draws people together in great numbers to break the daily fast with iftar. I am again reminded of celebrating Ramadan in Cairo, Egypt many years ago when entire city blocks were set with tables to feed the faithful, and of visiting the homes of friends, one after the other, throughout the night. This year, such practices are impossible and forbidden out of concern for public health.

We in the Franciscan family, friars and sisters, who have celebrated such times with you and with Muslim communities throughout the world, will also feel the void this year. Sharing iftar with you in your homes and mosques has allowed us to come to know you, not only as neighbors and as partners in peace-building, but as brothers and sisters, as the children of Ibrahim (upon him be peace!). These experiences have enriched our lives of faith and prayer.

Even as we are physically separated from our respective religious communities and from one another, we must encourage one another to spend this time in frequent and deep prayer, remembering our God who calls each one of us into relationship with Him through prayer, for this is at the essence of our religious observances. I am reminded of the Christian tradition that Jesus (upon him be peace!) spent forty days alone in the desert before he began to publicly proclaim the Gospel. Likewise, we know that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him!), used to wander alone in the mountains and caves outside Mecca, and that he received his first revelation from God on one such occasion. Holy men and women, Christian and Muslim, have throughout the ages, withdrawn into solitude to be alone with God that they might hear the Word of God more clearly.

During these sacred times, Allah also calls us into relationship with one another. Both the Holy Bible and the Glorious Qur’an tell us that these relationships must be expressed with righteous deeds, particularly in care of the poor and hungry. Although physically distant from one another now, we can nevertheless remain united with one another in a spirit of peace, justice, and love, caring for one another in a world that often seems careless and even cruel. Even in the midst of this pandemic, we remain painfully aware of the hardships that Muslims and Christians suffer in many parts of the globe simply because they are Muslim or Christian. The pandemic has only exacerbated these woes in countries where Muslims and Christians are minorities suffering discrimination and persecution.

During this Easter season and the month of Ramadan, let us be united in our faith in God who does not abandon us to darkness and death, but who sends to us His holy prophets and reveals to us His Holy Scriptures to illumine our hearts and minds, and assure us that He will bring life from death. Our respective celebrations of Easter and Ramadan both use the symbol of light to express this faith. The fire and candle used at the Easter Vigil and the lantern of Ramadan (Arabic, fanous) remind us of the light of faith and hope in the midst of the darkness.

We wish you a most blessed Ramadan. Ramadan Mubarak! Ramadan Kareem!

 

Br. Michael D. Calabria, OFM,
Special Assistant for Dialog with Islam

Members of the Commission for Dialog with Islam:

Br. Manuel Corullón, OFM
Br. Ferdinand Mercado, OFM
Br. Jamil Albert, OFM

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Protect Migrants and Refugees during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Protect Migrants and Refugees during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Slowing the spread of COVID-19 requires that everyone be included in prevention and protection strategies, especially the most vulnerable, including migrants and refugees. This pandemic is a public health crisis that brings home how interconnected we are. It is our collective responsibility to act rapidly and in solidarity.

As grassroots and faith-based organizations and religious leaders from across Central America, Mexico and the United States working to address the root causes of poverty, violence and corruption that force people to leave their homes, we offer this framework for action to protect migrants and refugees and help all of our communities survive this crisis and rebuild with justice and equity.

  1. We demand the rapid, safe and orderly release of as many migrants and asylum seekers from detention as possible
    • Identify and prioritize the immediate release of those at risk due to underlying medical conditions or age.
    • No migrant should be detained in a facility that is unable to follow required COVID-19 prevention steps.
    • Those managing detention centers must identify, protect and refer those suspected of being ill to specialized health care services…

Read the complete text on redfranciscana.org: EnglishEspañol

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A Message of Hope from the Mayor of Assisi

A Message of Hope from the Mayor of Assisi

Stefania Proietti, the mayor of Assisi (Italy) wrote the following Easter letter, a beautiful message of hope, to the residents of Assisi:

Today more than ever I feel the need to reach out to you as we share a time that we never expected to face. An invisible enemy has upset our lives, our thoughts of the future, our institutional, and our work activities. It has generated fear for us and our loved ones, and a general sense of total bewilderment. Even in concern, we must try to see this great test with a prophetic gaze: in these Easter days we would have had shrines, streets, squares, structures overflowing with people; instead we find ourselves in an empty Assisi that appears surreal to us in its great beauty almost empty of life.

We think first of all of our fellow citizens who are experiencing COVID-19 in their lives and dearest relatives, recognizing in them all those who, in Italy and in the world, are suffering directly from this pandemic. The good news, in this different Easter, is that today we have six people recovered from only 30 positive cases since the beginning of this emergency. Good news, which I hope will calm your hearts and instill hope in all of you.

Let’s start now, together, soberly, humbly, to think about the future. May we start from the love of St. Francis, who, stripping himself of everything, has become a giant of the Church and of universal spirituality, and has made our city great, over centuries, in history and in the collective imagination. Now more than ever Assisi, the city of the patron saint of Italy, will be an emblem of hope and rebirth for the world: in the authenticity of the Franciscan message we can find the strength of real life through solidarity and the preferential option for the poor and needy.

Let us place ourselves at the service of a city that must find the strength to be reborn as a “rising sun” for all of Italy. Because Assisi, as soon as possible, will start first and with the strength that comes from being the city of St. Francis, city-message for the entire human family, chosen by Pope Francis also to change the global economy, which now is showing all of its fragility. In the health, economic and social emergency, the whole administration and I as mayor, ask you to be protagonists of our future: only together, in solidarity. Only together, in solidarity and social cohesion, making ourselves a single family, as a united and supportive community, will we overcome this challenge and be reborn stronger than ever.

Source: franciscanmedia.org

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A Buried Treasure Revealed: The Book of the Conformity of the Life of Saint Francis to the Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ

A Buried Treasure Revealed: The Book of the Conformity of the Life of Saint Francis to the Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Buried from the ordinary reader for 600 years, and available only to scholars, this hugely important work is now available for the first time in a modern language!

Two decades ago, we saw the appearance of “Francis of Assisi: Early Documents,” a three-volume collection of Francis’s own writings and all the medieval hagiographical sources on him down to the mid-14th century. Now, this series will be continued with the publication of a massive work, “The Book of the Conformity of the Life of Saint Francis to the Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ,” written by Friar Bartholomew of Pisa between 1385-1390.

The Book of the Conformity (often called The Conformities) represents the high­est point of medieval glorification of the figure of St. Francis. It contains a nearly complete record of the saint’s own writings, and a vast store of material from all the known hagiographical legends of the saint from the 13th through late 14th centuries. In addition, it has extensive lists of the places where Franciscan friars, Poor Clare nuns and Franciscan tertiaries lived and ministered, with personal details about many Franciscan personages, both famous and obscure.

The author, Bartholomew of Pisa, divided his large work into what he calls 3 “Books”. Part 1 concerns the Incarnation, the Nativity and the early life of Jesus, with corresponding similarities to be found in the early years of Francis’s life. Part 2 concerns the years of the public ministry of Jesus, his preaching and healing, calling of disciples, travels from one place to another, with similar events in the life of Francis. Part 3 concerns the Passion, Death, Resurrection and Ascension/Glorification of Christ, and the events of Francis’s last days, his illnesses and suffering, his receiving of the stigmata, his death, canonization, and the miracles attributed to him as a heavenly intercessor.

For six centuries this text, so vital to the Christian communities that had been touched by the life of Saint Francis, has never been published into a modern language. This landmark translation brings The Book of Conformity to today’s reader.

More information:

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Do not be afraid; darkness has not conquered the light! | Easter Letter of the Minister General 2020

Do not be afraid; darkness has not conquered the light! | Easter Letter of the Minister General 2020

Do not be afraid; darkness has not conquered the light!

[Cf. Mt 28:5; Jn 1:5]

 

Easter Letter of the Minister General 2020

Dearest brothers and sisters,

May the Living Christ give you peace!

This year, the celebration of Easter will have as a backdrop a world traumatised by the spread of the new Coronavirus. Hundreds of thousands of people are infected; tens of thousands are dead; many more will be victims before an effective vaccine can be developed. We cannot even begin to talk about the impact of this virus on local, regional and global economic life. Unemployment is rising rapidly; families already have to make clear decisions about which meals they can afford to eat and which they have to give up. And as if that were not enough, the virus is now spreading to countries in Africa and Asia where much of the health infrastructure is not sufficiently equipped to receive those who will fall seriously ill.

On this journey, the Risen Christ comes close to each one of us, enlightening us with his Word and rekindling in our hearts the fire of first love: “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” (Lk 24:32). This text on the Resurrection serves as a compelling call to love, mercy and the closeness of our God in all moments of life, especially when human life itself is threatened. It is precisely at these times that the Lord Jesus does for us what he did for the two followers who were walking towards Emmaus with broken hearts, confused minds and shattered hopes. What they had witnessed in Jerusalem was too overwhelming to accept.

Without being recognised, Jesus reaches out to them on their journey, asking them to talk about what was worrying them. “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” (Lk 24:17). This question is more than just a request for information on current events. Jesus opens up a way of listening, thus allowing the two followers to focus on what really worried them: the darkness and despair that the horrible events of the crucifixion had brought into their lives. “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” (v. 18). The question posed by these two men touches the most profound sense of human solidarity, in addition to what could be said from a biblical and exegetical point of view. Not knowing can sometimes be equated with not wanting to know. Pope Francis calls it a culture of indifference. When one knows the truth about something, one is obliged to act in a very different way, to commit oneself to do what is necessary and right to respond to emerging needs and live a consistent life. This is the nature of conversion: it calls us to wake up and put order in our lives. It requires that we connect our lives with God’s story, and an essential part of this story is his permanent initiative to draw us to him, to save us, and to lead us on the path to the fullness of life.

Perhaps encouraged by this particular fellow traveller, those two men continued to explain what had happened in Jerusalem. They recounted how Jesus of Nazareth was going to lead them out of their mediocrity, their lack of clarity about who God is and what He means to those who seek Him with an open and humble heart. He would free them from slave-like dependence in which they lived because of the (foreign) Roman occupation, and the collaboration of those who cared only for their own personal interests. “How our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him” (Lk 24:20).

Even in the darkest moments of human despair, when it seemed that there was no longer any reason for hope, the men who made their way to Emmaus recognised a glimmer of light. They had a motive not to give in, not to allow their despair to consume them and to destroy the dream offered to them by the “prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people” (Lk 24:19). But they could not stop there. They wanted to convey something else to their mysterious companion on the journey: “Some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive” (Lk 24:22-23). “That he was alive!” It is difficult to extinguish human hope and love, even in the face of overwhelming circumstances. Even in despair, the two disciples still kept the possibility open that God could do something new, that God had not abandoned them.

In the celebration of the Easter Vigil, there is another text that is very closely linked to this sense of fidelity and hope that God brings to humanity in the person of His beloved Son Jesus. The Gospel of Matthew portrays the figure of Mary Magdalene and another woman called Mary, who go to the tomb to mourn the death of the one they believed to be the promised Messiah. The earth trembled, the stone that blocked the entrance to the tomb was rolled away, and an angel appeared and spoke to the two women: “Do not be afraid… He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said” (cf. Mt28:5). It is clear from the text that the angel’s words cause joy but also confusion in their hearts. Yet they leave “in haste”, running towards Jerusalem to deliver the message they have received to a hidden and frightened community. Just as happened to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, Jesus himself meets the two women, greets them, allowing them to come closer and embrace his feet. Jesus says to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” (28:10).

Many situations regularly highlight our fears because they confront us with unknown or uncertain circumstances. Returning to my opening theme, the coronavirus epidemic has aroused worry, anxiety and a sense of absolute helplessness in all of us. The images of the sick dying alone, because they cannot have any contact with their families, have shocked us. This Easter the biblical texts of the resurrection invite us to confront the harsh reality of the threat to human life: the life of Jesus taken in a vicious act of violence; the life of humanity now facing a virus capable of killing and harming millions of people on this small planet. We know that the virus is not the only threat humanity is facing, but it is now the most urgent. All the more reason to listen once again to the message of the angel and Jesus, who come to give us comfort at this difficult time for the whole human community.

Do not be afraid! Yes, truly the Risen Christ “makes all things new” (Rev 21:5) and therefore wants to renew our lives and the way we face any kind of threat. He, as Saint Bonaventure affirms, “having defeated the author of death, teaches us the ways of life” (The Tree of Life 34). He urges us to leave the tomb of our fears, of our prejudices, of our mediocrity; to transcend those situations that prevent us from living our vocation to the full, that is, to be resurrected, to be new men and women. I am reminded of the words of Pope Francis who exhorted us at the last General Chapter to “restore mutual trust so the world may see and believe, recognising that Jesus’ love heals wounds and renders all as one”. An appeal to strengthen our trust in the strength that flows from Easter.

The encounter with the Risen Christ, who frees us from the fears that paralyse us, urges us to go beyond ourselves, beyond our security and comfort, the sense of “it has always been so”. We are challenged to take the path of the Gospel, which is always new because it is “the Word of eternal life” (Jn 6:68). The encounter with the Risen One becomes mission and proclamation of new life. “Those who have encountered him, those who live as his friends and identify with his message, must inevitably speak of him and bring others his offer of new life: Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (Querida Amazonia 62).

So what should we proclaim? We must never tire of proclaiming with our voices and witnessing with our lives that Jesus Christ is alive and that with his Resurrection, he has conquered death. We must declare that death, hatred and fear do not have the last word, but the life of the Risen One is the definitive word on the story of humanity and our personal stories. We must cry out that “darkness has not conquered the light” (Jn 1:5), but it is the light of Easter that flickers over every night and radiates the beginning of the day without a sunset. God will never abandon those he created and destined for life, love and hope! The world, the Church and our fraternities need to hear this message: we are the bearers of these glad tidings, so we generously offer to all the good news that springs from Easter!

A happy and holy Easter to all!

Rome, 5 April 2020
Palm Sunday

Br. Michael A. Perry OFM
Minister General and Servant

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[Deutsch] Fürchtet euch nicht; die Finsternis hat das Licht nicht erfasst!
[English] Do not be afraid; darkness has not conquered the light!
[Español] ¡No temáis, las tinieblas no vencieron la luz!
[Français] N’ayez pas peur, les ténèbres n’ont pas vaincu la lumière!
[Hrvatski] Ne bojte se, tmina nije pobijedila svjetlo!
[Italiano] Non abbiate paura, le tenebre non hanno vinto la luce!
[Polski]Nie bójcie się, ciemność nie ogarnęła światłości!
[Português] Não tenhais medo, as trevas não venceram a luz!

Artwork: Luca Giordano, Resurrection. Oil on canvas, 114 x 116 cm. Residenzgalerie Salzburg, Inv.-No. 285. Photo: Fotostudio Ulrich Ghezzi, Oberalm. © 2020 RGS/Ghezzi.

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