Francis Still Seen as a Model in Dialogue With Islam

Says Minister General of Order of Friars Minor

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RABAT, Morocco, APRIL 7, 2004 ( St. Francis of Assisi continues to be a model to follow in the dialogue with Muslims, says the minister general of the Order of Friars Minor.

Father José Rodríguez Carballo made that comment while visiting Morocco for the chapter of the Franciscan Federation in this north African country.

The first friars, sent by Francis, arrived in Morocco in 1219. Another small group arrived there is 1227. The Friars Minor have been in Morocco ever since, except for two short periods in the 16th and 19th centuries.

The Friars Minor were dedicated to the service of Christian prisoners and works of social and cultural development. Today they are in dialogue with the Islamic culture and religion, and collaborate with local institutions. About 30 Friars Minor in Morocco are distributed in 11 houses.

In a homily Father Rodríguez Carballo addressed to his brother religious during a Mass in Rabat, he repeated the advice that Francis gave the Franciscans who were leaving for Morocco.

“‘Live among them [the Muslims] spiritually,’ without stirring ‘disputes and controversies, but submitting yourselves to every human creature for love of God,'” the minister general said.

“Francis is not only the first founder who included in his rule a chapter on the missions, not only was he the first modern missionary, but he was the first promoter of the pedagogy of the ‘dialogue of life’ with those who seemed to be the great danger for Christendom,” Father Rodríguez Carballo said.

“At a time of war between the Cross and the Crescent, Francis opted — in a way which we would not hesitate to describe as prophetic — for ‘dialogue of the heart,’ the ‘dialogue of the poor,'” he added.

“At a time of great disputes and great controversies, at a time of intense struggles, Francis, without condemning persons, had no other concern than that of living the spirit of the beatitudes,” Father Rodríguez Carballo said.

“I am fully convinced of the timeliness of this kind of mission,” the minister general concluded. “Don’t ever forget that the first means of evangelization is ‘preaching with one’s life.’ The Good News must be proclaimed, in the first place, through witness.”

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