Holiness Is the Only Missionary Strategy, Pope Says to Friars Minor

Message to the Order’s General Chapter

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 4, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II thanked the Franciscan Friars Minor for their missionary service to the Church and invited them to «a more incisive apostolic action in today’s world,» in his message to their general chapter.

Religious, superiors and representatives of the order are meeting until June 21 in the Portiuncula of Assisi, where St. Francis himself gathered his religious in chapter. The friars are focusing on the topic «Fraternity in Mission.»

Addressing this topic, the Pope said in his message that «all programs of evangelization» must highlight «the primacy of the interior life and holiness,» «prophetic testimony of the Kingdom of Heaven.»

«This implies an incessant tension to holiness,» he said. «It is important that the order preserve its own missionary style, characterized by poverty and fraternal life, animated by the spirit of contemplation and the sincere quest for justice, peace and respect of creation.»

«At the same time,» the Holy Father added, «it is indispensable that each one of its members and all the fraternities collaborate in building the one Church of Christ, in accord and full communion with the pastors of the local Christian communities.»

With «a renewed spirit of obedience» and «a sincere desire for ecclesial communion,» the Pope reminded the friars that the sole objective of any apostolic work is «the salvation of souls.»

«The salvation of souls,» the Pope reminded the friars, led St. Francis of Assisi «to promote the dignity and rights of the person» and «to defend the safeguarding of creation.»

«To speak of a missionary thrust seems a bit unrealistic also for your order, if one considers the decrease in the number of its members and the increase in the average age that has been verified in these years,» he observed.

However, instead of «causing discouragement,» the Pope said, this «should lead, on one hand, to intensifying prayer, so that the owner of the harvest will send laborers to his harvest and, on the other hand, to seek new pastoral and vocational strategies.»

«Promote and support vocations with prayer and the testimony of life, trusting in God,» he recommended.

In this connection, John Paul II reminded the friars that «the great attraction exercised by Francis and Clare of Assisi among youth must be used to propose also to the generations of the third millennium a more profound reflection on the essential values of life, which find their synthesis in the response that each one is invited to give to God’s call, in particular, when the latter calls for the total giving of oneself and of one’s energies to the cause of the Kingdom.»

The Order of Friars Minor numbers 16,642 religious, including 11,116 priests.

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