VATICAN CITY, OCT. 29, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II encouraged the religious of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchins to be an example of brotherly love to a globalized world torn by divisions.
The Pope proposed this in a message sent to Italy’s Capuchins, meeting in Assisi through Friday, for the “General Chapter of the Mats.” The Vatican press office released contents of the message today.
The meeting, being held near St. Francis’ tomb, is being attended by 500 friars, led by their minister general, Father John Corriveau, representing some 2,400 Capuchins of the 24 Italian provinces.
It is called the “Chapter of the Mats” in remembrance of the first meeting called by St. Francis in the little church of the Portiuncula of Assisi, which today is housed in the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels. In that place, the religious brothers listened to St. Francis and at night slept on straw mats.
“A continuous and total conversion to fraternity on the part of individuals, local and provincial fraternities, will be able to lead you to a sort of globalization of charity, lived by brothers at the level of the order,” the papal message said.
“This form of life in fraternity constitutes a challenge and a proposal to the present world, frequently lacerated by ethnic hatred and murderous madness, traversed by conflicting passions and interests, desirous of unity but uncertain about the paths to undertake,” the Pope added.
“To live fraternity as true disciples of Christ can constitute a singular blessing for the Church and a spiritual therapy for humanity,” the Holy Father said. “In fact, evangelical fraternity, appearing as a model and ferment of social life, invites men to promote fraternal relations among themselves and to join forces in favor of development and the liberation of every person, as well as of genuine social progress.”
In its commitment to remain faithful to the intentions of its founder St. Francis, the Order of Friars Minor has experienced divisions in the course of history. So arose, among others, the Order of Friars Minor Conventuals and the Order of Friars Minor Capuchins.
The Capuchins are the most recent branch of these three, dating back to 1525, when some Friars Minor of Las Marcas wished to live a more rigorous life of prayer and poverty.
The name “Capuchins” refers to the hood that is part of the habit. Today, the order is present in 92 countries, with some 11,000 friars who live in 1,800 communities.