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Franciscans affirm role as bridge-builders, messengers of hope
By
Carol Glatz
Source: Catholic News Service
Published: Tuesday, June 23, 2009
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ROME (CNS)—Members of the Order of Friars Minor reaffirmed their role as being guardians of hope, messengers of the culture of life, and bridge-builders linking cultures and religions, said the minister general.
 
Franciscans around the world will continue to be on the ground in places marked by violence and extreme poverty, Spanish Father Jose Rodriguez Carballo said at a press conference at the order's headquarters in Rome June 22.
 
The press conference was called to announce some of the proposals and conclusions that came out of the order's 187th general chapter, which was held May 24-June 20 in Assisi, Italy, the birthplace of St. Francis, the order's founder. During the chapter, members also celebrated the 800th anniversary of the founding of their order.
 
The chapter reaffirmed that Franciscans "cannot turn our backs on the world, especially on the poorest," said Father Rodriguez.
 
The Franciscan order expresses a particular "fondness for the world, a fondness that does not prevent us from having a critical approach" toward speaking out against wrongs and injustices, he said.
 
Members of the order demonstrate their love for the world by being fully engaged in it, and by serving the needs of all people and God's gift of creation, he said.
 
"The world is not just a battlefield; it is above all an opportunity to bring the Gospel to society" and God's love to all people, he added.
 
In a world suffering from human rights' violations, a global economic meltdown, environmental disaster in many regions and forced migration, the Gospel can provide responses, he said.
 
Franciscans affirmed their desire "to be bridges between cultures and religions, bridge-builders of reconciliation, justice and peace, messengers of the culture of life and custodians of hope," he said.
 
He said the 152 representatives of the order at the Assisi meeting reconfirmed their mission in the Holy Land and in Morocco and approved new missionary projects in Europe, which is heavily secularized, and in the Amazon, where the ecological system is seriously at risk.
 
Between 2009 and 2015, the order will also establish a missionary presence in Laos, Cambodia, Senegal, Cameroon, Ghana and parts of the former Soviet Union, he said.
 
When asked about the order's plans for China, Father Rodriguez said, "We can't talk about China; the conditions you are aware of there prevent us from talking about it."
 
The religious activities of the Catholic Church are restricted in mainland China and the government has been accused of human rights' abuses against Catholics not registered with the Chinese government.


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