04 Oct

Orient and the Holy Land: Fraternal Visit

On September 20-28, 2019, Friar Giovanni VOLTAN, the new Assistant General for the Federazione Inter-mediterranea Ministri Provinciali (FIMP), made his first visit to the Provincial Custody of the Orient and the Holy Land. The Custody has four friaries, two in Lebanon and two in Turkey.

The Assistant General’s arrival in Beirut coincided with the conclusion of a spiritual retreat for all the friars of the Custody. The retreat was led by Friar Tomasz SZYMCZAK, the Secretary General of the Order.
At the Sin El Fil friary in Beirut, Lebanon, the Assistant General had a nice meeting with a real “Cedar of Lebanon” Friar Massimiliano CHILIN. Friar Massimiliano originates from Padua, Italy. He is ninety-three years old, and has spent 53 of those years in the Custody. He is a living record of the Order’s presence in the country. Alongside Friar Massimiliano, was one of his first disciples, the eighty-year-old Friar Jalil HADAYA, from the Syriac-Catholic Church. Also present was the young Friar Roger KOUYOUMDJI. Friar Roger serves as the Custodial Vicar and a Pastor. He is a native of Lebanon. Others attending included the Guardian, Friar Felician TAMAŞ and Friar Gheorghe-Vasile TAMAŞ, both from Romania. Together, the five friars animate the lively Christian community of Sin El Fil. This location has many links with St. Anthony of Padua, its patron saint. There are several ongoing pastoral and cultural initiatives here.
In Beirut, the Assistant General met with our confrere, the Most Reverend César ESSAYAN, Vicar Apostolic of Beirut, Lebanon. In Zahle, Lebanon, the Assistant General visited the Friary of St. Francis of Assisi, erected in 2010, as the second friary in Lebanon. The community is comprised of the Guardian, Friar Iosif-Florin PETRILA, from Romania; the Vicar and Pastor, Friar Elias Paul MARSWANIAN; and Friar Khalil EL KHOURY, both from Lebanon. The primary ministry of these friars is being a humble presence in a predominantly Muslim area with very few parishioners or Christians. The friars carry out charitable social work to benefit refugees and the very poor. This work has been made possible by generous contributions from Caritas Antoniana. Near the friary is the St. Clare hermitage, which was a gift from a benefactor. The space is used to offer spiritual retreats connected with our charism.
At the Saint Anthony of Padua Friary in Istanbul, Turkey, Friar Giovanni met with the local fraternity, which includes the Custos, Friar Anton BULAI; the Guardian, Friar Iulian PIŞTA; the Pastor, Friar Iosif ROBU (all from the Province of Romania); Friar Michał SABATURA; and Friar Andrzej DYLEWSKI (from the Province of Warsaw). Together with the Custos, the Assistant General visited a home for the elderly run by an institute of nuns. For some months now, the sisters have been caring for another member of the fraternity, Friar Luigi IANNITTO, aged ninety-eight, from Abruzzo, Italy.
In Büyükdere, Turkey, the Assistant General visited the Friary of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, comprised of the Guardian, Friar Martin KMETEC, from Slovenia; the Custodial Secretary, Friar Lucian ABALINTOAIEI; and Friar Mihăiţă HERCIU a member of the Turkish Bishops’ Conference, (both from Romania). The friars are currently serving a few faithful at our church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They also take part in cultural animation, providing translations, printing, and dissemination.
We thank all the friars of the Custody for their fraternal welcome. They are succeeding in earning the appreciation of the people through their presence and service in this part of the world—this Land of the Orient—where Francis, a pilgrim of peace, met the Sultan 800 years ago.

Friar Giovanni VOLTAN, Assistant General for the FIMP

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25 Sep

Lebanon: Spiritual Retreat

On September 16-21, 2019, the Provincial Custody of the Orient and the Holy Land carried out a spiritual retreat in Kobayat, Lebanon. The retreat center is located in the northern part of the country and is run by the Carmelites. The Carmelites opened their doors in a spirit of true fraternal hospitality.

The spiritual retreat was led by Friar Tomasz SZYMCZAK, the Secretary General of the Order. He provided five days of spiritual guidance, offering lectures on the theme of the evangelical counsels and the religious vow of obedience. His meditations were based on Holy Scripture, the Fathers of the Church, various documents of the Order and the Magisterium of the Church. Friar Tomasz aided his listeners in rediscovering the richness of obedience and in renewing their relationship with the Lord.
Among the retreat’s notable events was praying the Rosary at the nearby Maronite Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Andket. The Shrine is a place where one can observe the Catholic faith being witnessed in this Arab part of the world.
There were fourteen participants in the retreat, some from the Custody of the Orient and the Holy Land, some from Province of St. Joseph, Spouse of the B.V.M. in Romania and one Polish diocesan priest.

Friar Michał SABATURA


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22 Aug

Lebanon: Mass of Thanksgiving

“We are all invited to choose our boat and embark towards other shores in the direction of new horizons”. Thus Friar Dominique MATHIEU began his homily for a Mass of Thanksgiving on Tuesday July 2, 2019, in the church of St. Anthony of Padua in Beirut, Lebanon. Friar Dominique, a member of the Provincial Custody of the Orient and the Holy Land, was recently elected the Assistant General for the Centralis Europae Foederatio (CEF) during the last General Chapter.

The Mass of Thanksgiving celebrated the gift of Friars Dominique Joseph MATHIEU and Florin Gheorghiţă BOGDAN and bade them farewell. They are from the Lebanese communities of St. Anthony of Padua in Sin el Fil and St. Francis of Assisi in Zahlé. The two friars concelebrated this evening Mass with Friar Anton BULAI, the Provincial Custos of the Orient and the Holy Land, at our church of St. Anthony of Padua in Horch Tabet, Sin el Fil.

A large assembly of faithful gathered to praise the Lord and thank him for the gift of our brothers. The liturgical service for this celebration was provided by our young people in vocational discernment. Hymns were sung by the choir of the parish scout troop. After the Mass, everyone moved to the friary for a fraternal agape meal and countless photos were taken from various mobile phones. Dulcis in fundo, the fraternity gathered that evening on the terrace of the friary for a barbecue, songs and dancing.

With St. Francis in his “Praises to Be Said at All the Hours,” we also say: “let us praise and glorify Him forever”, for the gift of these brothers. May they sail to other ports and return, inshallah (‘God willing’ in Arabic and Turkish) to our lands in the Orient, the cradle of encounter with other faiths, churches and Christian traditions.

Fr. Roger Kouyoumdji


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16 May

Lebanon: Formation for Guardians

On May 1-3, 2019, the Guardians and Vicars of the friaries of the Provincial Custody of the Orient and the Holy Land met in Lebanon for three days of fraternity and formation.

On the first day, the friars went on a pilgrimage organized by the community in Sin el Fil, Beirut. They celebrated Mass at the church of Saint Anthony of Padua in Kfarzeina and prayed the Rosary at the Shrine of Saydet el Hosn in Ehden.
The friars spent the next two days studying psychology and Franciscan spirituality, through lectures and discussions led by Friar Lucian HORLESCU from the Province of St. Joseph, Spouse of the B.V.M. in Romania. Several aspects of fraternal relationships were presented, with careful attention paid to responsibilities, conflicts and the role of affectivity. Friar Lucian offered a reinterpretation of the Letter to a Minister by St. Francis of Assisi. Moreover, he invited the friars to continue their journey with joy, and to never grow tired of working on their own limitations.

Friar Lucian ABALINTOAIEI, OFM Conv.

Formazione Per Guardiani (Libano, 1-3 Maggio 2019)

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06 Apr

Day of Prayer in Memory of Martyrs

On March 24, the “Day of Prayer and Fasting in Memory of Martyrs” will be celebrated. This Day was established in 1993, as an initiative of the then Youth Missionary Movement (now Missionary Youth), on the anniversary of the assassination of St. Óscar Arnulfo ROMERO, Archbishop of San Salvador, El Salvador.

On this day, all missionaries killed because of their ministry during the year 2018 will be remembered. Prayer and fasting during this anniversary will help us reflect on our personal faith and commitment in proclaiming the Gospel.

To prepare for this day, the Friars Minor Conventual of Istanbul arranged a ceremony to bless an icon of the Blessed Martyrs of Peru: Michał TOMASZEK and Zbigniew STRZAŁKOWSKI who suffered martyrdom on August 9, 1991, in Pariacoto, Peru. Their liturgical feast day is June 7. Last year, the Secretary General for Mission Animation (SGAM), Friar Jarosław WYSOCZAŃSKI, visited Istanbul and spoke about the life and mission of our Blessed Martyrs. He was their Guardian in Peru when they were killed.

The blessing ceremony took place on March 15, 2019, and brought together friars from both communities in Istanbul: Büyükdere (Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary) and Beyoğlu (St. Anthony of Padua). It was an occasion to pray for the Order and to reflect on the Franciscan witness in Turkey.

The ceremony was presided over by the Minister General, Friar Marco TASCA, who at the time was a guest of the Custody of the Orient and the Holy Land in Turkey and Lebanon. He also blessed the icon. The icon was painted in Bulgaria and was a fraternal gift from the Provincial Delegation in Bulgaria.

According to a report by “Fides” (a press agency for the Pontifical Mission Societies), 40 missionaries were killed in 2018: 35 priests, 1 seminarian and 4 lay people. In 2017, by comparison, there were 23 deaths.

The friars of Istanbul are planning to celebrate the Third Sunday of Lent with the following motives in mind: to commemorate the missionaries, to offer a Lenten sacrifice for the intentions of the missionaries and to foster the rediscovery of missionary zeal in our friaries and Jurisdictions.

Friar Michał SABATURA

Giornata Dei Martiri

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