20 Apr

Orient and the Holy Land: Ordinary Custodial Chapter

On April 9-13, 2018, the Provincial Custody of the Orient and the Holy Land held the first part of its Ordinary Custodial Chapter at the Our Lady of the Well Retreat Center in Bkennaya, Lebanon.

Those attending included the Friar Joaquín AGESTA CUEVAS, the Assistant General for the Federazione Inter-mediterranea Ministri Provinciali (FIMP); Friar Teofil PETRIŞOR, the Minister Provincial of the Mother Province of St. Joseph, Spouse of the B.V.M. in Romania; and the friars who juridically belong to the Custody. This is the Custody’s third Ordinary Chapter.
During the third session of the Chapter, Friar Anton BULAI was elected to his first term as Custos. The Definitory members are: Friar Roger KOUYOUMDJI, Custodial Vicar; Friar Lucian ABALINTOAIEI, Custodial Secretary; and Friars Dominique MATHIEU and Iulian PIŞTA, Definitors.
We thank the Lord for gathering the friars together for this fraternal meeting. The atmosphere was very warm and joyful.
The second part of the Chapter will be celebrated in Istanbul, Turkey, in on July 2-6, 2018.


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21 Mar

Lebanon: Canonical Visitation

On March 3-10, 2018, the Assistant General for the Federazione Inter-mediterranea Ministri Provinciali (FIMP), Friar Joaquín AGESTA, conducted a canonical visitation to the two fraternities in Lebanon belonging to the Provincial Custody of the Orient and the Holy Land of the Province of St. Joseph, Spouse of the B.V.M. in Romania.

The Custody has two friaries in Lebanon: one in Beirut (Sin El Fil) and one in Zahlè, which houses the Custody’s postulancy program and serves as a place to welcome prospective vocations. There are nine friars between the two fraternities: five are in the friary-parish of St. Anthony in Beirut, and four are in Zahlè where various ministries are carried out such as Secular Franciscan (OFS) formation, charity towards the poor and the Syrian refugees, and youth and vocational animation. There are two additional young confreres: one is studying sacred scripture in Jerusalem, and the other studying patristics in the U.S.A.
The Zahlè fraternity is just over fifty kilometers [31 miles] from Beirut. The friars have been there for more than ten years. The church next to the friary is still under construction. About two and a half kilometers from the friary, [1.5 miles] the friars also take care of a hermitage dedicated to St. Clare. It is a pilgrimage destination and a meeting place for faithful participating in Easter and Franciscan events (the Palm Sunday procession, Good Friday and the Pardon of Assisi indulgence).
The Custody is preparing for its next Ordinary Custodial Chapter, which will be celebrated during the second week of Easter.

Friar Joaquín AGESTA, Assistant General for the FIMP


Visita Assistente FIMP In Libano

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22 Jan

Istanbul: Christmas at the Basilica of St. Anthony

Inside our church, we emphasize all of the liturgical seasons with decorations that signify what the Church is celebrating. The short Advent and Christmas seasons usually take place within a month and a half. However, the Friars Minor Conventual celebrate them with meditations lasting almost three months.

There are two reasons for this. The first is that St. Francis loved this time of year. He celebrated the Child Jesus joyfully and tenderly, as he did at Greccio. The second is that, for us, it is an occasion to proclaim to our Muslim brothers that “in times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he spoke to us through a son” (Hebrews 1:1-2), who now passes from the state of being the Divine Word to that of being flesh.
Today, the crib of the Nativity Scene contains the Holy Scriptures. Tomorrow it will hold the divine Child. Now the crib contains our faith and hope and, after experiencing these two theological virtues, tomorrow we will find the greatest virtue, love itself. Jesus says: “Ero cras” [“Tomorrow I will come”], to those who will be coming back to celebrate Christmas. This event takes place at the Franciscan Nativity Scene, in the “Courtyard of the Gentiles” located in front of the Basilica of St. Anthony in Beyoğlu, Turkey.
The courtyard at St. Anthony’s architecturally and spiritually embraces all those who pass under the portico. The portico leads them from the street into a common space for the people. Our first proclamation takes place in this courtyard. It is where we proclaim the incarnation of the Son of God with a simple and clear evangelical Nativity Scene. Mary and Joseph wait by the crib and, at the same time, they silently proclaim the birth of the Verbum caro factum est.
Several feet away, on the opposite side of the courtyard, like it or not, is the statue “Twisted Crucifix” by the artist Wim DELVOYE. It expresses another birth, the painful one, suffered by the One who was born exclusively for our salvation.
These two “Advents” of Jesus, his birth and crucifixion, follow each other under the gaze of the Immaculate, who appears as a mosaic in the lunette above the church door. The Virgin is shown with her arms down at her sides and her palms open, indicating the birth and the crucifixion. At the same time, she is seen as a patroness welcoming all who enter the courtyard. She invites us to go into the church in order to more fully discover the mystery of Christmas.
Whoever goes into the church cannot fail to notice the Advent wreaths on the columns. Lit up, the wreaths look like royal crowns proclaiming: “The righteous live forever, and in the Lord is their recompense…therefore shall they receive the splendid crown, the beautiful diadem, from the hand of the Lord” (Wisdom 5:15-16). The wreaths also point to the two Christmas trees on the altar. They burn like the burning bushes in the desert (with light bulbs), causing the spectator to say to himself, as Moses did: “I must turn aside to look at this remarkable sight” (Exodus 3:3). Those who come closer discover not only the trees, but also a larger, more elaborate Nativity Scene, which says something extra about the person of Jesus and his birth. This is a Nativity Scene for believers.
Thus, the Friars Minor Conventual, on the calenda, December 24, solemnly proclaimed Christmas to the citizens of Istanbul: “For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord” (Luke 2:11).

Friar Anton BULAI

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25 Nov

Meeting of the Friars of the Provincial Custody of the Orient and the Holy Land

OFMConv Franciscans from the Middle East came together at Saint Anthony Friary in Istanbul from October 23 to 27, 2017, for a time of formation and sharing.


Together with the Provincial Minister of Romania, Friar Teofil Petrișor, the Middle East Friars meditated on their presence and activities in the Custody during these days of very intense meetings. The guide of these days was Friar Marius Petru Bâlha. He offered reflections daily on religious consecration and on dedication to the mission in simplicity and with the prudence of the Holy Spirit.

The fraternal sharing was another detail very useful for helping the brothers to feel that they work together for the Kingdom of God in these lands. The Middle East Custody has great diversity and a wealth of languages, cultures and activities. For this reason this meeting together guided the brothers in strengthening their fraternal spirit in the Franciscan way.

This meeting was part of the preparation for the next Ordinary Custodial Chapter that will be held next year.

friar Lucian Abalintoaiei

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30 Oct

Lebanon: Chapel of the “Flying Saint”

On September 26, 2017, the Order of Friars Minor in Lebanon dedicated a chapel to the “Flying Saint,” St. Joseph of Cupertino. The chapel is located in the garden of their St. Anthony of Padua friary in Harissa.

On the evening of September 26, as Our Lady of Lebanon looked on, a considerable crowd of faithful gathered outside the small chapel for the blessing rite. It was presided over by Friar Francesco PATTON, the Custos of the Holy Land of the Friars Minor. Others attending the dedication included the Most Reverend Gabriele CACCIA, Apostolic Nuncio to Lebanon; the Most Reverend César ESSAYAN, OFM Conv., Vicar Apostolic of Beirut; and Father Ivan SANTUS, Secretary to the Nuncio. There was also a sizeable group of Friars Minor from the Holy Land and Lebanon as well as various representatives of our own Order: Friar Martin KMETEC, OFM Conv, Vicar Custos; Friar Agnello STOIA, OFM Conv., Pastor of the Basilica of the Twelve Holy Apostles in Rome (who was passing through Lebanon); and Friar Roger KOUYOUMDJI, OFM Conv., a representative of the Provincial Custody of the Orient and the Holy Land in Lebanon. In addition, there was a large group of Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Mary.
Before the blessing, Friar Francis PATTON made a brief speech about the meaning of the chapel in this Jubilee Year of the 800th anniversary of the arrival of the first Friars to the Orient (1217-2017) and of the 500th anniversary of the infamous splitting up of the Seraphic Order (1517-2017). Our saints remain beacons of light in our search for communion within the same Franciscan calling and charism. Friar Francis mentioned three aspects of the spirituality of St. Joseph of Cupertino: loving God with all one’s heart and strength, praising God with one’s life, and loving one’s neighbor. At the end of the liturgy, the Custos gave a blessing featuring the relics of St. Joseph of Cupertino. They had been given to him by the General Postulator of the Conventual Franciscans.
At the end, everyone present took part in a fraternal agape meal.


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