Letter from Four Ministers General of the Franciscans

St. Anthony Messenger Press received the following communication from our provincial communications office, St. John the Baptist Province:

Friday, October 03, 1997, 3:23 A.M.

The disaster which has struck the regions of Umbria and the Marches has been a terrible shock for us. Our first thoughts go to our two Franciscan brothers and to the two experts from the Umbrian Arts Inspectorate who were killed, and we express our deepest sympathy to their relatives. These four men died close to Saint Francis, while they were caring for his basilica; we trust that the saint of Assisi will lead them in peace to the blessed vision of God.

We offer our sympathy also for all the other victims of the earthquake, and we wish to express our solidarity with those many people who have been left homeless or have suffered grave losses in its wake.

The damage sustained by the Franciscan shrines of Assisi—the Sacro Convento, Saint Mary of the Angels, San Damiano, Santa Chiara, and above all the upper basilica of Saint Francis—are like so many wounds in our hearts. These are the hallowed places where we friars remember the life and spiritual journey of our Father Francis and of Saint Clare; the places where the most important gatherings and celebrations of our Franciscan families take place; the places, too, to which so many pilgrims come from all over the world to be mpoved by the ever-present fascination of Francis; the places chosen by the Pope for universal prayer for Peace in the world.

We wish to express our gratitude to the civil authorities at national, regional and local level and to those charged with the protection of the cultural and artistic heritage for their prompt intervention.

Our deepest thanks goes also to the countless individuals and institutions which have sent us messages of sympathy and solidarity. The Feast of Saint Francis draws near. As an expression of mourning and a mark of respect for the pain and sorrow of so many people, and also because the churches in which the celebrations usually take place are damaged, we have decided to simplify the observances of October 4th this year. There will be a single celebration of the Eucharist in the piazza in front of the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels on Saturday October 4th at 10.30 a.m. The Italian Region of Liguria, to which it falls by turn this year to offer the oil for the lamp which burns before the tomb of Saint Francis, will participate in this simple celebration in the manner it considers most appropriate.

In spite of this tragedy which has struck the places sacred to the memory of Saint Francis, we are not discouraged in our hope for a future of solidarity in which the victims of the earthquake will be helped effectively and speedily, and in which the Franciscan shrines will become once again the goal of many pilgrims, especially in view of the Great Jubilee of the year 2000.

Br Agostino Gardin, Minister General of the Friars Minor Conventual

Br Giacomo Bini, Minister General of the Friars Minor

Br John Corriveau, Minister General of the Friars Minor Capuchin

Br Bonaventura Midili, Minister General of the Third Order Regular of Saint Francis

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