Here are Paula’s notes for her introductory talk at our recent Chapter in Gibraltar, together with her report on the Chapter.
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.
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.
The life of St Francis of Assisi was transformed when he recognised the loving mercy of God in
his life and this led him to desire that everyone might experience God’s mercy. Perhaps the “The Holy Year of Mercy and our Franciscan Response” weekend in Cardiff starting this Friday is for you. Francis Dor OFM Cap, our Capuchin General Spiritual Assistant, will be coming from Rome, where he is based, in order to be with us. If you would like to join us, do contact Angela Bradley. There should still be places available. See here for details, a booking form, and the programme.
Another option is the And I showed Mercy to Them weekend “Exploring the Richness of God’s Mercy” led by Paula Pearce, our National Minister at Pantasaph Retreat Centre from 6th to 8th May, 2016. A Pantasaph booking form can be found here.
Brothers & Sisters: Building Bridges (Pope Francis on Lesbos: 16/04/2016)
Pope Francis’ five-hour visit to Greece on 16th April ended with him offering safe passage to Italy to 12 Syrian Muslims, half under the age of 18. The Vatican will assume financial responsibility for the families, who will be assisted by the Rome-based Community of Sant’Egidio.
“Wake us from the slumber of indifference,” the pope prayed, “open our eyes to their suffering and free us from the insensitivity born of world comfort and self-centeredness.” In his prayer Pope Francis insisted “we are all migrants, journeying in hope” toward God in heaven.
Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens and all Greece stood with Pope Francis and they, too, offered prayers.
Poe Francis praised the people of Lesbos for showing that “in these lands, the cradle of civilization, the heart of humanity continues to beat; a humanity that before all else recognizes others as brothers and sisters, a humanity that wants to build bridges and recoils from the idea of putting up walls to make us feel safer. In reality, barriers create divisions instead of promoting the true progress of peoples, and divisions sooner or later lead to confrontations.”
Being a Resurrection Community: ‘Straining forward to what lies ahead’
Continuing the theme of Mercy and also referring to divisions in brotherhood, some of you may have missed this powerful call to an evangelical life, to being a Resurrection community that was made by Fr Michael Perry OFM in his Easter Letter of the Minister General 2016
“There should not be any brother in the world who has sinned, who after he has looked into your eyes, would go away without having received your mercy.”(Letter to a Minister, 9) Yes, brothers, as Pope Francis urges us: “it is time to return to the basics and to bear the weaknesses and struggles of our brothers and sisters. Mercy is the force that awakens us to new life and instills in us the courage to look to the future with hope.”(Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus, 10)
Fr Michael says: In a particular way, this jubilee year of mercy is summoning us as Franciscans to transcend the divisions in our brotherhood that have arisen over our long history.
He quotes Biblical scholar Gerhard Lohfink: “[Being] a Resurrection community means anticipating that at every hour the Spirit of Christ will show the community new paths, expecting new doors to open at any moment, counting on it that at any hour the Spirit can transform evil into good, hoping that every hour the impossible will become possible, and never saying “later!” but always “now!”
At a Cinema near You: RISEN. Some said that he is risen… What if it is true?
RISEN was released in UK cinemas on March 18th. The Capuchin Franciscans of GB, on their facebook page, said: “A film worth watching. We travelled 80 miles to see it. The tomb is empty… and it is awesome!”
The film is an account of Jesus’ resurrection as seen through the eyes of an unbeliever. It follows Clavius, a high-ranking Roman military tribune and his aide Lucius, who are instructed by Pontius Pilate to ensure that Jesus’ radical followers don’t steal His body and claim resurrection. When the body goes missing within days, Clavius’ mission is to find the body, dispel rumors of a risen Messiah and prevent an uprising in Jerusalem. You will find a trailer here, here a review, and here a list of cinemas across the UK which will be showing the film. Note that “These listings are correct at the time of being published”, which was 14th March.
Pope Francis celebrated last night the Missa in coena Domini – the Mass of the Lord’s Supper – leading the Church of Rome into the sacred Paschal Triduum. He did so at the C.A.R.A. reception centre for refugees seeking asylum, located at Castelnuovo di Porto, just over 18 miles outside of Rome.
Pope Francis performed the ritual washing of the feet of a dozen people – eleven guests of the C.A.R.A. Centre and one woman who works at the Centre for Auxilium. Four of the guests taking part in the ritual were Nigerian Catholics, three others – all three women – were Coptic Christians from Eritrea, three others were Muslims from Syria, Pakistan and Mali, and one was an Indian Hindu.
The CA.R.A. centre is host to nearly 900 asylum-seekers from 25 different countries spread across Africa, Asia, and even Europe. The majority of the guests at the facility are Muslim, and there are many Protestants and Coptic Christians as well. The Auxilium group that operates the Centre says that there has never been any tension as a result of the religious diversity of the guests.
In his brief homily, Pope Francis focused on the Gospel story of Jesus washing the feet of his apostles. He emphasized the common bonds that unite all people. “We are different; we are unique,” the Pontiff said. “We have different cultures and religions. But we are brothers and we want to live in peace.” He referred to two gestures in the gospel: the gesture of Jesus, who serves, who washes the feet, the gesture of brotherhood and goodness; and the gesture of Judas, who goes to those who don’t want peace, the gesture that destroys brotherhood. And added that there are also two gestures here today. At the C.A.R.A. reception centre: Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, Copts, Evangelicals, but brothers, children of the same God who want to live in peace, integrated. Yet three days ago there was a gesture of war, of destruction in Brussels. People who don’t want to live in peace, the gesture that destroys brotherhood.
CNA/EWTN News have this report by Elise Harris, copied below in full. It includes the full text of the Pope’s homily:
During a Mass in Rome on Holy Thursday Pope Francis washed the feet of migrants and refugees, many of whom were moved to tears by the gesture.
The Pope told them that while there are some people in the world who seek to sow violence, Jesus shows us the path to unity, brotherhood and peace.
“Today, right now, when I do the same gesture as Jesus in washing the feet of you 12, all of us are making the same gesture of brotherhood,” he said.
“We are different, we are unique. We have different cultures and religions, but we are brothers and we want to live in peace,” he said, adding that “each of you has your own story. Many crosses, many pains, but also an open heart that wants brotherhood.”
Francis spoke to the 900 migrants and refugees currently housed at the Reception Center for Asylum Seekers, or CARA, in Castelnuovo di Porto, just over 18 miles outside of Rome. Nearly all of them come from sub-Saharan Africa.
The Pope decided to celebrate his Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper at the center, after spending previous years offering the Mass in prisons and a rehab center for the disabled.
Nearly 900 migrants and more than 100 volunteers attended the Mass. Most of the migrants hosted at CARA are Muslims, and among the Christians, most are Copts or Protestants.
During the Mass, Pope Francis washed the feet of 11 migrants and of one volunteer. Of the migrants, four were Catholic youths from Nigeria, three were Coptic women from Eritrea, three were Muslims, and one was a Hindu youth from India.
While tears could be seen in the eyes of several of the men and women whose feet the Pope washed, one woman was particularly moved. She had been tearful while the Pope washed her feet, but began to sob as Francis reached up to touch her baby.
In his homily, the Pope stressed that “actions speak more than images and words,” and pointed to the day’s Gospel reading from John in which Jesus washes his disciples’ feet before being betrayed by Judas, who turned him in for 30 pieces of silver.
Francis pointed to two separate gestures in the passage, the first was being “Jesus, who serves, who washes the feet. He, who was the head, washes the feet of his, the smallest.”
The second gesture was that of Judas, “who goes to the enemies of Jesus, those who don’t want peace with Jesus, to take money…two gestures.”
Pope Francis noted that the two gestures are also present today. One, he said, seeing everyone from different cultures and religions gathered together.
“Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, Copts, Evangelicals, but brothers. Children of the same God who want to live in peace, integrated.”
However, the Pope observed that there is also the gesture of war and destruction, and pointed to the March 22 terror attacks in Belgium.
The attack is an example of “people who don’t want to live in peace,” he said, but noted behind that act, “just as behind Judas, there were others.”
“Behind Judas there were those who gave him money so that Jesus would be delivered. Behind that act (in Brussels), there are manufacturers, arms traffickers who want blood, not peace, who want war, not brotherhood.”
Francis again contrasted the actions of Jesus who washes feet, and Judas who sells his friend for money. He told the migrants despite their differences, they are all “children of the same Father, brothers.”
He encouraged each of them, “in their own religious language,” to pray to God “so that this brotherhood infects the world. So that there will not be the 30 coins to kill our brother, because there will always be brotherhood and goodness. So be it.”
Please see below for the full text of the Pope’s homily:
Actions speak more than images and words. Actions. In the Word of God we have read, there are two gestures. Jesus, who serves, who washes the feet. He, who was the head, washes the feet of his, the smallest. One gesture. The second gesture: Judas, who goes to the enemies of Jesus, those who don’t want peace with Jesus, to take money, that … of 30 coins. Two gestures. Also here today there are two gestures. This, all of us together. Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, Copts, Evangelicals, but brothers. Children of the same God who want to live in peace, integrated. One gesture. Three days ago there was a gesture of war, of destruction in a European city. People who don’t want to live in peace. But behind that act, just as behind Judas, there were others. Behind Judas there were those who gave him money so that Jesus would be delivered. Behind that act (in Brussels), there are manufacturers, arms traffickers who want blood, not peace, who want war, not brotherhood. Two gestures. Jesus washes the feet, and Judas sells Jesus for money. You, us, everyone together, different religions, different cultures, but children of the same Father, brothers. And over there (are the) poor ones who buy arms to destroy brotherhood. Today, right now, when I do the same gesture as Jesus in washing the feet of you 12, all of us are doing the same gesture of brotherhood, and we all say, we are different, we are unique. We have different cultures and religions, but we are brothers and we want to live in peace. And this is the gesture that I do with you. Each of you has your own story. Many crosses, many pains, but also an open heart that wants brotherhood. Each one, in their own religious language, prays to the Lord, so that this brotherhood infects the world. So that there will not be the 30 coins to kill our brother, because there will always be brotherhood and goodness. So be it.
The Regional Day for the South East England region took place in Ashford on 3rd October 2015. We started by attending the Mass of the parish for that day.
The theme of the day was Fraternity and what it means to us, and what we think it should mean to us. We had the opportunity to follow the service of Franciscan Renewal, concluding with the Transitus at the end of the day.
Ashford fraternity showed us great hospitality. We had a wonderful shared lunch and made apple juice from our home grown apples. We shared home grown produce and books that we had finished with.