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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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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22 Jun

Istanbul: Franciscan Priestly Ordination

On Saturday, June 17, 2017, Friar Andrew HOCHSTEDLER, OFM Conv., was ordained a priest at the Basilica of St. Anthony in Istanbul, Turkey.


This significant occasion was attended by friars from the Provincial Custody of the Orient and the Holy Land, a Custody of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual. The Custody belongs to the Province of St. Joseph Spouse of the B.V.M. in Romania. Other participants included friars from Italy, Croatia, France and the United States; priests of the Apostolic Vicariate of Istanbul together with the Most Reverend Rubén Tierrablanca Gonzalez, OFM, Vicar Apostolic of Istanbul; plus family and friends of Friar Andrew.


The Mass was presided over by the Most Reverend Cesar ESSAYAN, OFM Conv., Bishop of Beirut and former Custos of the Custody of the Orient and the Holy Land. It was during his time as Custos that Friar Cesar first guided the newly ordained on his vocational journey. Now as a Bishop, he imposed his hands on Friar Andrew and conferred Sacred Orders upon him.
Before the Mass, there was a moment of interior preparation. Guests, tourists and music lovers were treated to a concert by Romanian organist Eduard ANTAL. His playing created a joyful atmosphere which was conducive to the celebration.


At the beginning of the Mass, Friar Martin KMETEC, the Vicar Custos, welcomed everyone and gave thanks to the Lord for the gift that Friar Andrew has been to the Custody. At the same time he stressed that there had never been a priestly ordination in this basilica before. In his homily, Bishop ESSAYAN mentioned Pope Francis’ message of June 10, 2017: “Life can survive only because of the generosity of other lives.” In fact, recalling St. Maximilian Maria KOLBE, who gave his life to save another life in 1941, in Auschwitz, the Bishop of Beirut invited Friar Andrew to consider this example: being a priest is a grace from the Lord but at the same time this grace, this gift, becomes a gift to others.


Friar Andrew HOCHSTEDLER was born on July 20, 1983, in Istanbul, to a Protestant family. In 2008, after having worked for three years as a journalist, he started his vocational journey at the St. Anthony friary in Istanbul. From there, he entered the postulancy program in Brescia, Italy. He studied philosophy at the Theological Institute of Assisi and studied theology at the Pontifical Theological Faculty of St. Bonaventure (Seraphicum) in Rome. Friar Andrew professed his solemn vows in the Order of Friars Minor Conventual at the Basilica of St. Anthony, in Istanbul, on September 13, 2014. He was ordained a deacon in the parish of Saint Antoine in Beirut, on December 4, 2016.


friar Lucian ABALINTOAIEI, OFM Conv.



Ordinazione Sacerdotale A Istanbul

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24 Nov

Mass Celebrated for New Parish Priest at Saint Anthony Basilica, Istanbul

Saturday, October 15, a special mass was celebrated at Saint Anthony Basilica in Istanbul to mark the entry of a new Parish Priest, thirty-two year-old Franciscan Romanian Friar, Iosif Robu. The mass was presided over by Istanbul’s Latin Catholic Bishop, Mons. Ruben Tierrablanca.

Seven Romanian friars, colleagues of Father Robu from his seminary days, were in attendance, having traveled from different countries in order to celebrate with their friend, who has lived in Istanbul for the past 4 years.

Bishop Tierrablanca blessed the new parish pastor, after which Father Robu read from the Gospel and Tierrablanca gave the homily. Subsequently, the decree naming Robu as Parish Priest was given to Father Martin Kmetec, who then read it in Latin. Mons. Tierrablanca then gave the decree, along with the keys to the church to Father Robu. Following communion Father Robu received a special prayer of blessing. The former Parish Priest, Father Anton Bulai, was also thanked for his 13 years of service.

The music ministry of Asya Kafkasya and the parish choir enriched the liturgical celebration on this special day. The mass closed with the hymn “Ave Maria”, and the entire parish community then gathered in the Saint Francis fellowship hall to share an evening meal.


SAT-7 TÜRK/ Nathalie Ritzmann- İstanbul


Nuovo Parroco A Istanbul

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26 Feb

Baby Jesus was also a refugee

In the church of St. Anthony, in Istanbul, the Nativity scene contains the clothes of the Syrian children who drowned while trying to reach Europe.

Boots, muddy shorts, backpack, a stuffed doll and life jackets: the Istanbulians that come as usual to the courtyard of St. Anthony’s church to see the manager prepared by the Franciscan friars, this year, found a Holy Family dressed in an unusual way. Pious hands that have dealt with the Syrian children who drowned in the Aegean waters while attempting to reach Greece from Turkey – for all the goal is Europe, as the willingness to welcome them proves grim – they have sent some of the children’s clothing to Istanbul.

And the Conventual Friars decided that, if not in Europe, then the children have earned at least the right to come in the manager and keep Jesus company with the memory of their little lives. “You cannot ignore the tragedy that is unfolding so near to us, said Friar Guardian Iulian Pista. – Otherwise the manager of sacred representation becomes an idyllic theater. The sacredness must be found in people’s everyday life.”

According to data released by UNICEF in early December, at least 185 children have died in shipwrecks in the Aegean Sea, along the route between Turkey and Greece, in 2015 (about 700 in the Mediterranean). The first to grab our attention was the little Aylan, Kurdish – Syrian, 3 year old who drowned in early September with his mother and little brother, age of 5 years old. The image of his body in pieces on the beach has made it around the world and has shaken everyone’s conscience. At least for awhile…

 The latest is Sajida, 5 years old and also Syrian, who was found on Pirlanta beach in Cesme. It was just a few hours before that the occupants of a boat sunk off the coast of Bodrum, only four were rescued from the Turkish coast guard while eight others died; amongst them five children. In the streets around the church of St. Anthony, halfway between the Galata Tower and Taksim Square, in the historic Pera district, it is easy to come across children of refugee families from Syria or Iraq. On Tuesday afternoons, their mothers come to take the bread for the poor at St. Anthony, a Franciscan tradition that has experienced new and more urgent requests with the arrival in the city of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees. Thanks to the generosity received by those that attend the church, Muslims for the vast majority, because in Turkey Christians of various confessions represent only 0.15% of the population.  In the days before Christmas the church, festively decorated with Christmas lights and decorations that have all the flavor of the Polish and Romanian traditions of the Friars of the community, is open to the continuous flow of thousands of visitors. And it’s our reality and something that should recall our attention,” commented by most viewing the manager that shines with lights under the benevolent gaze of the statue of John XXIII.

Our Lady of the Nativity of St. Anthony has a life jacket with the number 26. If instead of fleeing to Egypt on the back of a donkey in the days of Herod, she had found herself having to seek salvation by sea now, it would have probably also worn her out. “After all – commented Friar Iulian – baby Jesus was also a refugee.”

 “Many children are able to arrive – said Pope Francis to the children of Catholic Boys Action that he met on his birthday, December 17th. He told them about the charity initiative chosen this year in support of migrants arriving in the territory of the diocese of Agrigento – some not … All that you do for these people is good: thank you for doing it!”