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Rhodes, 11th September 2019

Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, President of the CEI, will organize a meeting in Bari for the month of February 2020 entitled: “Mediterranean, peace frontier”. It is prophetic initiative that is linked to a similar project, in which the Friars Minor have been working on for some time, in collaboration with the General Secretariat for the Missions and Evangelization, the Office of Justice, Peace- Integrity of Creation of the General Curia OFM and the Conference of Ministers Provincial of the Friars Minor of Italy and Albania (COMPI).

A year ago, prompted by the social and cultural situation that was spreading throughout Italy and in much of the West, the Franciscans felt called to question in a concrete manner those signs of fraternity characteristic of our Order. To this end, the idea of establishing a “Franciscan Network of the Mediterranean” has matured. As Friars Minor we strongly feel the responsibility and urgency to trigger processes shared fraternally between peoples and cultures that face the Mare Nostrum

The Franciscan presence in almost all the Mediterranean countries is in itself an enormous potential which, if structured in a network, can become a tool of fundamental importance. This awareness takes on even more significance in the year in which we are celebrating the 800 Years from the Peace Pilgrimage of St. Francis to the Holy Land and the historic meeting between St. Francis and the Sultan Malik al-Kamil which occurred in Damietta (Egypt).

Faced with the rampant culture that feeds division, closure, exclusion, considering the other not as a brother, but a threat to be rejected, the Franciscans intend to promote and support the culture of dialogue, of encounter, of inclusion; as the only way to build Peace and counter any kind of fundamentalism; as our beloved Pope Francis underlined during his recent visits to the Arab Emirates and Morocco.

Therefore, in December 2018, the JPIC Council with the Secretariat for the Missions and Evangelization of COMPI met in Rome. The Minister General and his General Definitory urged us to encourage this proposal and to develop common and creative projects.

From the 6th to the 9th September 2019, the first official meeting between the JPIC delegates and the Secretaries for Mission and Evangelization of the Friars Minor of European countries bordering the Mediterranean took place in Malta, including the Custody of the Holy Land which has a mission in Rhodes (Greece).

The objective of the meeting was to establish the definition of a “Network” to be created and the initiatives to be commenced and executed, taking into consideration integral ecology, an essential key to building a sustainable future of Peace. It seemed important to understand how to face the challenges and problems, as well as to make full use of the enormous potential that this area is able to give to all the Entities that face the Mare Nostrum. In keeping with the expectations of the Plenary Council OFM 2018, the Franciscans feel called to seek a concrete response: […] for a culture of inclusion, of encounter and of fraternal coexistence.

These fixed points allowed the ME Secretaries and all the JPIC animators of the countries of the Mediterranean coast to meet, get to know each other, share ideas and projects with the aim of creating concrete and feasible proposals for a future that is already present.

It is hoped that the Franciscans who live in the Mediterranean will soon be able to network, using the work they are already doing, moreover in fact, they have created important bridges to create new initiatives.

We urgently need a database that allows further concrete connections.

The essential steps:

  • The first step is to create a database organized by the General Secretariat ME and the General Office for JPIC and to urge the Mediterranean Franciscan Provinces to photograph the reality of their areas by communicating the updated data provided by the friars who work in the sector, using a tool accessible to all.
  • The second step is to enter the data onto the website of the General JPIC office in a specific section specific to the Mediterranean dedicated to migrants and refugees.

Br. John Luke Gregory, ofm
JPIC Commission
Custody of the Holy Land