Friars Minor to Review Their Missionary Strategy

General Chapter Opens in Italy

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ASSISI, Italy, MAY 26, 2003 ( Fraternity in mission is the key topic of the 185th General Chapter of the Order of Friars Minor, now under way.

Father Giacomo Bini, the Minister General of the Franciscans, said that it is an «opportune moment» for «verification, programming and renewal of the government.»

The chapter fathers, representing the religious of the order, will focus particularly on the work of missions.

Under the presidency of the Pope’s delegate, Cardinal Jorge Arturo Medina Estévez, they will also elect the 119th successor of St. Francis as leader of the order.

Explaining the order’s work, Father Bini told Vatican Radio: «We are present, since the time of St. Francis, as builders of the interreligious dialogue, which today is very important.»

«Dialogue with the Muslim world is taking place in the land of Morocco, where we are present with 40 friars; in Indonesia, in Pakistan, and in the Holy Land,» he said. «We are trying to build bridges, to create relations and establish a more fraternal communication.»

«Over the next few weeks we will have to identify the priorities that will guide us over the next six years to really build a missionary, contemplative fraternity centered, precisely, on the essential,» he said.

This means «to live in an intercultural and international fraternity, as we do in many parts of the world — to tell everyone that the other, the one who is different, is not a threat, but a richness of which we are in need in order to grow and mature humanly and in a Christian way.»

During the chapter, the general statutes of the order will be reviewed because, Father Bini explained, «the world is changing at incredible speed and, therefore, we must adapt the structures, our ways of fraternity, our missionary forms.»

«To speak of structures means to speak of an entire world that we must bring into being, without fear, once the internal, spiritual structure is assured,» he said.

According to the Pontifical Yearbook, the Order of Franciscan Minors aims «to live the Gospel in the Church according to the model observed and proposed by St. Francis of Assisi and preached to all creatures.»

The order has 16,642 religious, including 11,116 priests. The general chapter ends June 21.

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