Rome, 24 March 2023. From 22 to 24 March, the Coordination Committee of the Franciscan Network of the Mediterranean meeting, organised by the General Office for Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation (JPIC), was held at the General Curia in Rome.
Br Daniel Rodríguez Blanco, Director of the General Office of JPIC, commented on the event: “The objective of this meeting was to reactivate the Franciscan Network of the Mediterranean. We did it with great enthusiasm and hope. We have a programme that we have already begun to develop with the three components of the Network, namely Migrants and Refugees, Youth, Dialogue and Peace. We want to be like a grain of sand in the great Mediterranean”.
During the conference, there were many ideas to take up the Committee’s journey and plan future meetings. Br Daniel retraced the “history” of the Committee in 14 stages, starting in 2018 when those in charge of the Evangelising Mission and JPIC of COMPI (Conference of Minister Provincials of Italy and Albania) proposed to the General Curia to create a Mediterranean Franciscan Network, to coordinate all the Franciscan entities in the Mediterranean area. Since then, the journey has had its ups and downs (also due to the pandemic), but in 2021 the General Chapter emphasised the importance of this Network in its Mandate: “The Minister General and his Definitory, in collaboration with the JPIC Office and the SGME, must continue to implement the Franciscan Network of the Mediterranean and the Franciscan Network for Migrants in Latin America, and will continue to promote and accompany similar projects and processes in favour of migrants in Africa, Asia and all the border areas of the Order”.
The Network is engaged in three major areas (Migrants, Dialogue and Youth) that are interconnected. Br John Luke, an Englishman from Sheffield and now a friar of the Custody of the Holy Land working on the island of Rhodes (Greece), tells us: “I remember a Syrian boy of about four years old: he arrived as a migrant in Rhodes with his father and brother, while his mother and sister died under the bombs. We are talking about migration, but also about future young people who bear great wounds”.
The theme of “healing inner wounds” was touched on several times by the participants: Br Francesco Zecca recalled how in Ukraine, a Capuchin friar and a Conventual friar use theatre to heal the wounds of war victims; Sr Miriam Oyarzo, FMSC, stressed the importance of “animating and promoting a culture of peace, dialogue and healing”.
Among the challenges facing the Committee is a “change of mentality“: Br Ignacio Ceja Jiménezspoke of this in his welcome address, and many pointed it out. “We must have a single vision”, said Pedro Fernández, OFS, born in Andalucía but “migrated” to Valencia, where as a lawyer, he offers his service to migrants free of charge. “We must not disperse or divide, but unite and work together in the three directions”. Br Fabio L’Amour, a Brazilian working in Morocco, said: “We must have a new vision, a new way of working. Let us think of the future, of those who will have to give continuity to this work after us”.
Br Markus Heinze, OFM, Executive Director of Franciscans International, emphasised the importance of mapping the different Franciscan entities working in this field in the Mediterranean: “We must connect with all the Franciscan identities working in the area, we must network and understand how to do it”.
The project concerning Migrants and Refugees aims to involve all the Franciscan entities of the Mediterranean within the Network to propose a meeting for them to define a joint project, also at the financial level.
For the Dialogue and Peace area, it is proposed to animate, promote, connect, communicate and dialogue with the other Franciscans (friars and sisters) who already have the task in the various dialogue commissions: the need to bring the message of Peace through a methodology specific to the Mediterranean Network, for example through music, culture, meetings and cultural exchanges, is emphasised.
In the context of Youth, they are to be the “leaven of change for a new humanism in the Mediterranean, to make it a Common Home”. Therefore, the Network will support OIKOS courses for young people, in particular in associated universities; a tour in different Mediterranean cities from September 2023 to September 2024, promoted by Giovanni Caccamo and the Andrea Bocelli Foundation, will be carried out; the setting up of youth groups (inclusive and interreligious) will be supported; and the Network will be present at WYD Lisbon as part of JPIC activities (July – August 2023).
The conference was attended by Sr. Miriam Oyarzo, FMSC, working in Turkey; Br. Fabio L’Amour, OFM, working in Morocco; Pedro Fernández, OFS, from Valencia (Spain); Br. John Luke, OFM, from Greece; Br. Francesco Zecca, OFM, from the OIKOS Project; Br. Markus Heinze, OFM, Executive Director of Franciscans International; Fausto Yudego, from Spain.