South East region invite us all to their regional day on 1st July (see below). More news from the regions will follow late in July, but we are now rushing off to France, until Tuesday 27th, for a wedding.
As you will know US President Donald Trump recently issued an Executive Order banning travel to the USA from seven Muslim-majority countries. Enforcement of this order has been suspended since a federal district judge in Seattle issued a temporary restraining order against it. That injunction was upheld by the ninth circuit court of appeals in a 9 February ruling.
Now, according to various news sources, such as Reuters and The Wall Street Journal, President Trump plans to rescind his executive order and replace it with a new one. “Rather than continuing this litigation, the President intends in the near future to rescind the Order and replace it with a new, substantially revised Executive Order to eliminate what the panel erroneously thought were constitutional concerns,” the justice department writes in a brief to the ninth circuit court of appeals. A draft of President Donald Trump’s revised immigration ban targets the same seven countries listed in his original executive order (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, and Libya), and exempts travelers who already have a visa to travel to the U.S., even if they haven’t used it yet.
It is good to see the Franciscans of the United States have taken a stand on this issue in prayer for and solidarity with our refugee and immigrant brothers and sisters. The Franciscan Friars of the United States have issued this statement signed by the Provincials of the seven OFM provinces in the USA. And Carolyn Townes, the OFS National Animator for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) in the United States has said that “The U.S. Seculars will stand with and support our brother Friars as well as our Bishops.” She says: “Let us come together in prayer and solidarity for our refugee and immigrant brothers and sisters!” And she offers this “Prayer for Migrants” from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:
Merciful and loving Father,
We beseech you, open our hearts so that we may provide hospitality and refuge to migrants who are lonely, afraid, and far from their homes. Give us the courage to welcome every stranger as Christ in our midst, to invite them into our communities as a demonstration of Christ’s love for us. We pray that when we encounter the other, we see in her the face of your Son, when we meet a stranger, that we take his hand in welcome. Help us to live in solidarity with one another, to seek justice for those who are persecuted and comfort for those who are suffering. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (The Prayer for Migrants, USCCB)
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website also has these reflections on Catholic Social Teaching on Immigration.
May we in the Secular Franciscan Order in Great Britain stand together with our sisters and brothers in the USA. And may we, as communities, respond to the challenge of the UK Community Sponsorship Scheme that Cardinal Vincent Nichols outlined to us when he spoke recently on the BBC Radio 4 Westminster Hour. The Cardinal spoke about President Trump’s executive order, and he also spoke in praise of the The UK Community Sponsorship Scheme, a UK government-backed initiative that enables community groups – including the Catholic Church, its agencies and charities – to take on the role of welcoming and supporting resettled refugees in the UK.
In the interview, the Cardinal explained that safety ‘is not secured by fear, it is secured by improving relationships…by opening up things not shutting them down.’ He also expressed concern that the executive order ‘increases the risk faced by Christian communities in the Middle East because it implicitly backs a false notion that this conflict is between Christians and Muslims. It increases the image of Christianity as a Western phenomenon.’
Reflecting on political leaders’ duty of care, Cardinal Vincent emphasised that this is ‘a question of how you exercise that duty’. The Cardinal expressed his concern that the executive order would not help. ‘Safety can never be the overall and ultimate aim, because if we try and live safely by simplifying, identifying others as our enemies, then we live in an increasingly enclosed mentality and an enclosed environment and that is not the best way for people to live.’
Speaking then in praise and encouragement of the The UK Community Sponsorship Scheme he said ‘The challenge is not only to the government, but to the communities in this country who often speak about their generosity, to really take up this opportunity. Then, I would hope, that programme can be speeded up and expanded.’
Cardinal Vincent acknowledged the difficulty in making decisions regarding acceptance of more refugees, but emphasised that ‘the intention that we play a concerted effort to solve this dramatic crisis of our time is very important because otherwise it is the extreme voices that win, whether they’re the extreme terrorist voices or the populist voices. I don’t believe that any form of leadership is best exercised by using fear.’
The full BBC Radio 4 Westminster Hour interview is available to listen to here.
Do let us know of any initiatives drawn from the Community Sponsorship Scheme (or similar projects) that your fraternities, your regions or your parishes are engaging in or planning to engage in. An excellent Presence in the World project.
Photo: Fr. Simoni with Francis during the Pope’s visit to Albania in September 2014 (photo courtesy of CTV).
The Pope has named seventeen new Cardinals. The only one who is not an Archbishop or a Bishop is Fr. Ernest Simoni, an 84 year old priest from Albania who in 2014, on the Pope’s visit, in the cathedral of Tirana, told the story of his twenty seven years of torture, imprisonment and forced labour under the brutal regime of Enver Hoxha. He said of his captors at the time that Christ had taught us to love our enemies and to forgive them and that we should strive to seek the good of the people. While in prison, he continued to celebrate Mass from memory in Latin, to distribute communion secretly and to hear confessions.
In America Magazine Gerard O’Connell wrote of that day at Tirana in 2014: “I have been on many papal trips to foreign countries over the past thirty years and have experienced some profoundly moving and faith-filled moments on several of them but I had never before seen a Pope so overcome with emotion that he wept. But that is what I witnessed on Sunday evening, September 21, in the cathedral of Tirana.”
After he finished speaking that day Fr Simoni turned to the Pope and told him, “I pray through the Most Holy Mother of Christ that the Lord will give you life, health and strength in guiding the great flock that is the Church of Christ.” He then went towards the Pope and went down on one knee before him. Francis pulled him up, kissed his hand and embraced him for a long time, and then put his head against his and wept. The Pope turned to the altar, took off his glasses and wiped his eyes with a handkerchief.
Pope Francis said later that before going to Tirana he had spent two months studying the history of the persecution in Albania, “but I had not realized that this people had suffered so, so much. It was a surprise for me,” he confessed.
The two met again at the Pope’s General Audience on 20th April this year. In a
brief but emotionally-charged encounter Pope Francis was again seen to be visibly moved and said: “This is an Albanian martyr,” when he saw Fr Simoni. And once again, he pressed his forehead to the forehead of the living martyr. Fr Simoni gave Francis a copy of a book that was to be launched that same afternoon in which he talks about his life story.
The book, taking Fr. Simoni’s meeting with the Pope in Tirana in 2014 as his point of departure, is by journalist Mimmo Muolo and entitled: Fr. Ernest Simoni: From Forced Labor to a Meeting with Francis.
When asked how he managed to endure such persecution without giving up, Fr. Ernest smiled before saying: “I didn’t do anything extraordinary really, I always prayed to Jesus, I always talked to Jesus.”
The priest described what moved him about this second encounter with the Pope: “Everyone sees and knows that the Holy Father, as Jesus said, is perfectly rooted in the word of God.” Father Ernest said that from his two encounters with the Pope, what struck him is that Francis is a “father of everyone who has difficulties.” He paused and added that he is fundamentally a man of Jesus. And this translates to “loving and forgiving every day, and spiritually and materially aiding the orphans and the poor.”
Fr Simoni is said by many sources including the Tablet and America Magazine to be a Franciscan.
All fraternities should have received back in the spring of this year, via their regions, information about the 2017 OFSGB National Assembly entitled “Upon This Rock: Rebuild My Church” which will be held in Gibraltar from Friday 21st April to Monday 24th April 2017. For more information see this programme. Here is an excellent opportunity to meet the successful and growing Gibraltar fraternity, the largest fraternity in OFSGB, numbering about sixty. Gibraltar fully supported the Youth Gather held at Cold Ash, and has already established a Young Franciscan Group. Here you will see the Gibraltar fraternity in action on behalf of Syrian refugees.
Christine Frendo from Gibraltar is our National Youth Councillor and her daughter Joanna Torres is Youth Councillor for the London Region.
It is now time to ask you to complete a registration form (click this link) and mail it to Michael Martin by 15th November, together with your deposit. We hope that a large number of members will wish to take advantage of this opportunity. Perhaps stay for a few extra days and make a holiday of it.
May the Lord grant you peace on this feast day of our Holy Father Francis!
And on this great feast the Friars Minor have launched this urgent appeal calling for the designation of Aleppo, and other places in Syria, as Safe Zones. The appeal is co-signed by the Minister General Fr. Michael A. Perry OFM and by the Custos of the Holy Land Fr. Francesco Patton OFM.
In particular – note Fr. Perry and Fr. Patton – the establishment of a security zone around Aleppo “would allow the whole population, worn down by the terrible effects of the conflict, to receive essential humanitarian aid without discrimination, to find safety and security, and to recover some trust and hope in a speedy solution, which would be motivated by peace alone”. The Religious Superiors also pledge their prayers and support to “our confrères who courageously continue to live in Syria. Through their closeness and practical service to all those weighed down by the harrowing consequences of the conflict, the friars have shown themselves to be true “good Samaritans”.
Currently there are about fifteen Friars Minor in Syria. Among them, in addition to the religious dispersed in Damascus, Aleppo and Latakia, there are two friars who continue to carry out their pastoral service in Knayeh, Yacoubieh and Jdeideh, in the villages of the Orontes valley, subject to the domination of jihadist forces, where some hundreds of baptized continue to live, pray and attend Masses celebrated in the three Catholic parishes stripped of the bells, crosses and statues of saints. The two friars who are with them are the only priests and religious Christians left in the lands where jihadist militias dictate laws.
May we secular franciscans also pledge our prayers and support to “our confrères who courageously continue to live in Syria”.
To read the message as a pdf see here.
For more information on the work of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land see here and here.
The full Agenzia Fides report on the launch of the appeal is here.
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#livinginhope #gettingthere #triduum
Blessings and love to you all for the Triduum and for the Easter season.
South Wales and South West Region are offering an interesting weekend event in Cardiff from 29th April to 1st May for the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy entitled “The Holy Year of Mercy and our Franciscan Response” See here for details and a booking form.
The weekend will be led by Brother Francis Dor OFM Cap, who is based in Rome, and is one of the General Spiritual Assistants to the Secular Franciscan Order.
We hope that members from the other regions will wish to support this event. Please pass on the details of the event to members in your region who may not be aware of it. Bookings to Angela Bradley.
And from 6th – 8th May 2016 at Pantasaph Franciscan Friary Paula Pearce will offer “And I showed mercy to them” (Testament of Francis): The weekend will be a reflective weekend around the following: The meaning of this Year of Mercy, Mercy in the Franciscan Sources and The meaning of the Year of Mercy for us today.
We have posted some Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy links here. Perhaps study Misericordiae Vultus in fraternity as we are currently doing at Stratford.
And why not check out the Diocese of Salford Mercy Bus, which, according to the Catholic Herald last week, is now touring Lancashire in an attempt to reach lapsed Catholics?
A message for Lent from our National Minister, Paula Pearce:
We only celebrated Candlemas a week ago and it is Ash Wednesday tomorrow. The Christmas season seemed only too short already this year. At least the lengthening days might begin to bring to an end our wet, miserable, and, for some, dreadful winter. We have had early daffodils, snow drops, crocuses and blossom.
I was delighted when I was asked to give an introduction to Franciscan Spiritual Direction to a group of Anglicans training to be directors in the Rochester Diocese last Saturday. It felt like a breath of fresh air and a welcome break from all the business of work for ofsgb. It brought me back to Bonaventure’s Major Life, a key source for the Franciscan Spiritual Direction programme I studied and later taught. Then I read this poem. It reminded of the vestiges, traces, of God that Francis saw everywhere and Bonaventure builds into this carefully crafted – text. I decided to share it as we enter the Lenten season.
I see His blood upon the rose
And in the stars the glory of His eyes
His body gleams amid eternal snows
His tears fall from the skies.
I see His face in every flower;
The thunder and the singing of the birds
Are but His voice – and carven by His power
Rocks are His written words.
All pathways by His feet are worn,
His strong heart stirs the ever beating sea,
His crown of thorns is twined with every thorn.
His cross is every tree.
Joseph Mary Plunkett 1887 – 1916.
I am also looking forward to attending the weekend on Mercy to be given by Brother Francis Dor (Our international Ofm Cap Spiritual Assistant), the week before I too present a weekend on Mercy as part of the Pantasaph programme. As a region, South East is planning a regional pilgrimage to the Jubilee Door in Southwark Cathedral. This Jubilee Year will bring great blessings but my hope is that it changes hearts and has a lifelong impact.
Enjoying Francis, taking seriously our Pope’s call to mercy, together seem to have strengthened my heart, mind and soul and helped me to cope better with the confusion, deep sorrow and real concern that our world situation leaves me feeling much of the time.
I pray that Lent will be a time of renewal, refreshment and prayer for each of us.
Dorothy Harte had drawn our attention to this appeal for the Calais migrants. Seeking Sanctuary is launching an emergency appeal for funds to relieve the immediate human suffering following the recent heavy rain and high winds in Northern France.
Our Gibraltar fraternity responded splendily last September to help Syrian refugees. If any fraternities or individuals are able to respond on this occasion please respond directly to Seeking Sanctuary – or to Calaid or Calais Action. On Facebook: see Calaid and Calais Action. On Twitter: go to @JoinCalAid and @calaisaction. Keep us informed by adding a comment to this post, or by mailing firstname.lastname@example.org
With the torrential rain and wind, and now freezing weather predicted for January and February, conditions in the camp have worsened and are deteriorating still more. Tents cannot survive these conditions, especially as the ground (an old landfill site and swamp among sand dunes) is not suitable for firmly securing guy ropes. There are a group of volunteer builders doing a fantastic job of making more sturdy wooden structures to replace the tents, but ground sheets and tarpaulin are desperately needed to weatherproof these, as well as to try to patch up ripped tents. (In Dunkirk the conditions are reported to be even worse, and supplies even more limited – but work to move people to a new location is now scheduled to start any day.)
Despite the opening of 1500 dormitory places in modified containers at Calais, the French authorities have further exacerbated the problem there by announcing immediate measures to clear all tents and structures in a zone at least 100 metres wide alongside the motorway and neighbouring houses. Aid workers have less than three days in which to help at least 1000 men, women and children to move and rebuild their dwellings.
Due to the rain, firewood is not an appropriate fuel source at the moment. Gas is in high demand and there is now a good system in the camp for re-filling gas cylinders. But it is expensive, with each cylinder costing £21 to re-fill and sustain a family or small community group tent for four weeks. Tarpaulins and groundsheets are needed to weatherproof new wood-framed shelters and to reinforce the most flimsy tents.
Finally, the Calais aid warehouses have totally run out of blankets, we would love to take them more thick warm blankets this month, to be available for new refugees arriving in the camp with nothing.
The Tunbridge Wells support group which has already made several trips will again be travelling to Calais on 27th January with 17 volunteers. They had already raised funds for essential supplies such as clothes and footwear. We want to help to raise an extra £5000, with which they want to buy large tarpaulin sheets, groundsheets, gas canister refills (each lasts a family or small group for 4 weeks as well as thick blankets. This will help at least 200 of the people most in need, particularly following the proposed clearance of tents away from the motorway.
If you can help us to raise this money please let us know and we will pass on their bank account details to you.
With thanks for all that you already do on behalf of these vulnerable people.
Ben and Phil.
About ‘Seeking Sanctuary’. There are currently some 6000 migrants in Calais (December 2015) and more nearby. ‘Seeking Sanctuary’ aims to raise awareness about this situation and is organising basic humanitarian assistance through Faith Communities and Community Organisations in partnership with experienced aid agencies such as ‘Secours Catholique’.
For further information on how you or your organisation can help, contact Ben Bano on 07887 651117 or Phil Kerton on 01474 873802. To check the latest news, visit our website.
The London Region elective chapter took place yesterday, presided over by our National Minister Paula Pearce.
The new London Region executive is: Minister: Anne North ofs, Vice Minister: Georgia Tutton ofs, Secretary: Toni McCabe ofs, Formation: Christine Cattini ofs, Treasurer: Jean Truebridge ofs, Presence in the World: Jothi Christian ofs, Youth: Joanna Torres ofs, Minister without Portfolio: Ela Sumislawska ofs.
Left to right in the main picture below are: Ela, Georgia, Jean, Jothi, Christine, Joanna, Anne and Toni.
Please include the new executive in your prayers as they begin their term of office.
We also said a big thank you to Fr Francis Conway OFM who “retired” earlier this year after a long haul as spiritual assistant to the London region.
Thank you Fr Francis, Thank you outgoing council, Thank you incoming council. Thank you, God.