10 Jul

Orient and Holy Land: Ordinary Custodial Chapter – Part II

On July 2-6, 2018, the friars of the Provincial Custody of the Orient and the Holy Land celebrated the second part of their Ordinary Custodial Chapter in Istanbul-Turkey.

The Provincial Custos of the Orient and the Holy Land, Friar Anton BULAI, presided over this fraternal event. Also present were Friar Joaquín AGUESTA CUEVAS, the Assistant General for the Federation of Intermediterranean Ministers Provincial (FIMP) and Friar Teofil PETRIŞOR, the Minister Provincial of the Province of St. Joseph, Spouse of the B.V.M. in Romania.
The Capitulars reside in Turkey and Lebanon. Friar Maurizio DI PAOLO, the Procurator General of the Order, met with them and gave a spiritual introduction to start the work of the Chapter.
During the Chapter, Friar Dominique MATHIEU, who had not been present for the first part, was elected a member of the Custodial Definitory. He took an oath to carry out this service with dedication.
Important decisions were made during this Chapter for the life of the Custody. The Capitulars approved the Custodial Statutes and accepted various pastoral and charitable activities. They approved the management of some real estate and some issues regarding vocations and formation animation.
During Mass on the last day, some deceased friars were commemorated, in particular, Friar Alfons SAMMUT from the Province of St. Paul the Apostle in Malta, who spent many years in Turkey. He went to the House of the Father on June 28, 2018.
Also during that Mass, the new guardians took their oath of office. They are Friar Martın KMETEC for the community of Büyükdere (Istanbul-Turkey); Friar Iulian PIŞTA for Beyoĝlu (Istanbul-Turkey); Friar Felician TAMAŞ for Sin-el-Fil (Beirut-Lebanon); and finally, Friar Iosif Florin PETRILA for the friary of Zahle (Lebanon).

Friar Lucian ABALINTOAIEI, Chapter Secretary


Capitolo Custodiale 2018 II

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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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10 Aug

Pilgrimage in the footsteps of Saint Maximilian Kolbe with the Friars of the Provincial Custody of the Orient and the Holy Land

From May 21 to 30, OFM Conv. Friars from the Middle East took a spiritual journey to Poland in the footsteps of the Polish Saint on the 100th anniversary of his founding the Militia of the Immaculate.

This year the Friars of Custody of the Orient and the Holy Land held their annual spiritual exercises in Poland. The retreat had a Marian focus as part of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Militia of the Immaculate by Saint Maximilian Kolbe and six other Friars Minor Conventuals in Rome.


The retreat was organized by the Custodial Vicar, Father Martin Kmetec, in collaboration with Friar Diarusz Wiśniewski. Each participant was asked to contribute to the pilgrimage by providing one or more of the spiritual meditations and homilies.


The pilgrimage began on the evening of May 21 with our arrival at our friary in Warsaw and the joyous welcome of our Polish Friars. After visiting the historical center of the city, Father Dariusz shared a meditation on the theme of Judaism, the relationship with the Church, and Antisemitism in order to prepare the group for a visit to the museum of Polish Jews. During the visit we had the opportunity to better understand the history of Polish Jews, beginning with their arrival in the country up until Auschwitz, and everything that it signified for their religious, political, economic and family existence. In the afternoon we went to visit and pray at the Church of Divine Providence.


Our presence in Warsaw concluded with mass celebrated at the altar dedicated to the memory of the blessed martyrs Michał Tomaszek and Zbigniew Strzalkowski, two Friars Minor Conventual who were killed in Peru in 1991.


In a reflection titled, Popular Marian Devotion, Father Martin explained to us how from the beginning of the church until today, Mary has had a very important role among the people of God. Whether through prayer, or in songs or structures dedicated to her, the figure of the Mother of God, our mother, has always been present in our lives. With this reflection Father Martin helped us to enter into the atmosphere of the Sanctuary of our Lady of Licheń.


In the evening, we arrived at the seminary of Łódź. There student friars from two provinces, Warsaw and Danzig, live and study together. They welcomed us with great joy and much fraternal affection. Friars from the nearby friary explained the church building’s history and then we passed a pleasant evening of fraternity together.


The next day we departed for the Sanctuary of the Black Madonna of Częstochowa. We arrived in the midst of a rainstorm. Upon entering the sanctuary we had the opportunity to concelebrate the solemn first communion mass, surrounded by numerous pilgrims and many children who were receiving the body of Jesus for the first time. After the mass each of us stopped to pray before the miraculous image of our Lady, to offer her our supplications.


Afterwards, at the convent of the Little Sisters of Jesus, Friar Iosif Robu offered a meditation about Maximilian Kolbe and Missions. For Saint Maximilian, love must stand as life-giving spring at the root of every mission. For the Saint, every mission has its starting point in the hearts of each of us.


Filled with hope from the awareness that the Mother of God is always near to us, in our joys and our difficulties, we left this holy place and set out for Krakow. Here we soon discovered the city’s beautiful churches, including the Arch-cathedral of Saint Stanislaw and Saint Wenceslaus where John Paul II celebrated his first mass, on Wawel Hill next to the royal castle. Near to Krakow we also visited the Sanctuary of Divine Mercy and with it the tomb of Saint Faustina Kowalska.


Friar Anton Bulai also shared a reflection on Divine Mercy, highlighting Jesus’ desire, shared with Saint Faustina in a vision: “the first Sunday after Easter is the Feast of Mercy, but there must also be acts of mercy, and I demand the worship of My mercy through the solemn celebration of the Feast and through the veneration of the image which is painted.”


Upon leaving this sanctuary we headed towards the salt mine of Wieliczka. Here we took a guided tour of this, one of the oldest salt mines in the world. In the afternoon we arrived in Wadowice, birthplace of Pope John Paul II (Wojtyła), and visited the new museum in the former Pope’s family home. In the evening we arrived at our order’s Friary in Harmeze. Here, after praying vespers, Father Iosif Petrila shared a meditation on the life and teaching of Saint John Paul II.


The morning of May 27 we arrived at the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp, a Nazi concentration camp that had produced horror and death. Here, an Italian-speaking guide awaited us. Seeing the traces of this horror and hearing the explanation of the guide, we were left speechless. We also visited the place where Saint Maximilian offered his life in exchange for the life of another man, the father of a family, and ended up dying a horrible death, starved by the SS. In the cell where he died as well as outside the cell we spent several moments in prayer. This part of our spiritual pilgrimage took us to the way of the cross of Jesus, taking into our hearts the suffering of the world.


Returning to Harmeze, in the morning we celebrated the mass of the Solemnity of the Ascension and then departed for Niepokalanów. During a stop at Częstochowa, Friar Mihăiță Herciu shared a meditation on the Immaculate Conception of Mary, explaining how Saint Maximilian offers Mary as an example for all Christians. The Immaculate shows us that we are full of the gift of the grace of God and it prepares us to be saints. We are called to a great responsibility, following her example, in order to fulfill our journey of sanctification.


In the evening we arrived at the Niepokalanów friary, founded by Saint Maximilian Kolbe. Here we visited the city of the Immaculate, seeing the great works that the saint accomplished.


On the final day Friar Piotr Szczepanski, Provincial Vicar of the Friars Minor Conventual in Warsaw, talked to us about the life of Saint Maximilian, highlighting the different aspects of the saint’s life, from his mission in Japan until his death in Auschwitz.

fr. Mihăiță Herciu

Pellegrinaggio In Polonia

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18 Apr

Extraordinary chapter of the Custody of the Orient and the Holy Land

Franciscan conventual friars from the Middle East met in Iskenderun, Turkey, this week for an extraordinary chapter of the Custody of the Orient and the Holy Land. Discussion of new statutes proposed for the custody was at the top of the agenda during the meetings, which ran from Tuesday, April 12, to Friday, April 15. In addition, the 20 friars, representing a fraternity of 11 nationalities living in five communities in Turkey and Lebanon, held moments of sharing and brainstorming for the future.

The chapter was led by Custos Friar Cesar Essayan with members of the custody’s definitory council, while Delegate General Friar Joaquin Agesta Cuevas and Romanian Provincial Minister Friar Teofil Petrisor participated to offer guidance on behalf of the order. The friars also benefited from the presence of the newly ordained Bishop of Anatolia, Mgr. Paolo Bizetti, whose dioscesan seat in Iskenderun houses the local friary, S. Maximillian M. Kolbe. Mgr. Bizetti opened the meetings on Tuesday morning with a meditation on Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman in John 4. He challenged the Franciscan brothers to reflect on the quality of their Gospel witness in the Middle East.

The days spent in Iskenderun were enriched by moments of fraternity, shared Arab-Turkish meals, dishes typical of the Hatay region, and community prayer, the bread and butter of fraternal life.

The presence of the Friars Minor Conventual in the Middle East traces its origins to the foundation of the first community in Istanbul in 1221, during the life of the order’s founder, Francis of Assisi. The Custody of the Orient and the Holy Land was founded in 2010 as a provincial custody of the Province of Romania.

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02 Mar

Welcoming the new Bishop to the Cathedral Church of the Apostolic Vicariate of Anatolia

 In Iskenderun, on Sunday, November 29, 2015, the church was filled with joy because Bishop Paul Bizzeti celebrated his first Holy Mass, at the Cathedral Church of the Apostolic Vicariate of Anatolia.

 The appointment of Bishop Bizzeti to the Apostolic Vicariate, Bishop Bizzeti fills a seat that has been vacant since 2010, after the death of the late Bishop Luigi Padovese. The community has suffered a lot. However, the Lord, in his providence, takes care of his people and, in fact, during these days this has come alive. Bishop Paul Bizzeti was born in Florence on September 22, 1947. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1966 and received his priestly ordination on June 21, 1975. He carried out his ministry in Bologna and Florence. It has been a long harbored desire for him to work in Turkey. Since 1978 he has been exploring this country, which has touched his heart with its hospitality and generosity. Over time, he has deepened his knowledge of biblical sites and the early Church. It is this knowledge and love that he has tried to convey through books and many pilgrimages. On August 14, 2015, Pope Francis entrusted him with the service to the Apostolic Vicariate of Anatolia. The Episcopal consecration took place on November 1, 2015 in Padua, in the Basilica of Santa Giustina.

In Iskenderun, the celebration began with the welcome by Father Massimiliano Veres OFM , Parish Priest of the cathedral. After the initial greeting and reading of the letter of appointment, Msgr. Angelo Accattino, the representative of the Apostolic Nunciature in Turkey, made ​​the announcement of the new Bishop taking his place at the Cathedral Church of the Apostolic Vicariate of Anatolia After which, the Bishop greeted the assembly. Rab sizinle! the motto that Msgr. Bizzeti has chosen for its new service, declaring that the Lord is always close to us, that He will never abandon us. The Bishop wanted to put emphasis on the unity of the Church which is rich with so many traditions. The presence of the bishop is an expression of ecclesial communion, and on a personal level, proposes obedience to a special vocation: to leave one’s country and to be totally available for the Lord, to live in a concrete way the proximity to the Church which is in Turkey.

Looking at the modest reality of the Church, the Bishop said that the numerical criterion is not a Christian principle. The Lord prefers what is small in the eyes of the world. He then encouraged the people of his diocese, to invite him to love this country and to engage him because Turkey is situated in a region that promotes peace, unity, and respect for the different ethnic groups and religions. To the young people, he addressed the invitation to have the courage to take seriously the idea of consecrating themselves to the service of men, offering them a journey together to discover what is important and beautiful.

During the celebration, there was an air of a new Pentecost, with so many people from different places and Christian denominations, gathered by the Spirit to form one family of God. The songs of the youth of the diocese helped to create a climate of prayer and joy.

The celebration was attended by representatives of the local authorities as well as the Protestant community and the Orthodox Church. Amongst others, were also present, Ürek Gregorios Melki, Syriac Orthodox Bishop and Patriarchal Vicar of Adıyaman, Yusuf Sağ, Patriarchal Vicar Syrian Catholic and Boghos Levon Zekiyan, Armenian Catholic Archbishop and President of the Conference of Bishops of Turkey.

We are very grateful to the Lord for His generosity towards us. Accepting the invitation of Bishop Paul, we entrust him and his mission to the Holy Spirit and the protection of the Virgin Mary, our Mother.