Let us promote respect for the rights and dignity of humans, above all those of the poor and the marginalized. Let us therefore be eager to co-operate with initiatives and institutions, both national and international, that work appropriately for the unity of the human race, for universal justice, and for peace. (Const. 107, 3-4).
1. The beginnings of the International Capuchin Fraternity
In 2015, Br. Darwin Orozco, director of Justice, Peace, and the Integrity of Creation (JPIC) for the CCA and CCB Capuchin Conferences, and Br. Manuel Vargas, director of JPIC for the Capuchin Province of Colombia, held a dialogue on the invitation that Pope Francis has made at various times to support the mission of the Red Eclesial PanAmazónica (REPAM – Pan-Amazon Ecclesia Network) . From this dialogue came the proposal for an International Fraternity as a response of the Capuchins to this call, such that, through the cooperation of the three circumscriptions present in the Amazon, we might be able to protect the indigenous communities that find themselves in a situation of marginalization and vulnerability, as well as in order to take care of natural resources.
In 2015 the project of the International Fraternity was presented to Br. Benedict Ayodi, Director of the General JPIC Office, together with Br. Jim Donegan, Secretary of Solidarity, and Br. Hugo Mejía, General Councilor and General Mission Secretary, who found the project feasible. From that point forward the plan began to take shape.
2. Awareness of the Project in Latin America
In February 2016 the International Fraternity Project was proposed to the Ministers of the CCA and was approved with the instruction that the placement of the fraternity should be in the area where the three borders of Peru, Colombia, and Brazil meet. (The previous idea was the area of Equatorial Amazon.)
The project then met with full support first at the meeting of the Capuchin animators of the CCA, CONCAM, and CCB Conferences, held in the Dominican Republic from June 6 to 10, 2016, and then at the meeting of friars working in JPIC in the same Conferences. Then, at the XII Assembly of Capuchin Latin America (ALAC), held in Monterrey, Mexico, the Project was brought to the attention of the General Minister of the Capuchins, Br. Mauro Jöhri, and continued to have full support.
3. Location of the International Fraternity
4. Embracing the future with hope
Brothers, the Church and the Capuchin Order, inspired by the Holy Spirit, has always promoted and will continue to promote pastoral initiatives, in order to bear the consoling freshness of the Gospel to all peoples, that they may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10) One these ‘winds of renewal’ in the Church is the Red Eclesial PanAmazónica (REPAM), which hears the cry of the indigenous community of the Amazon and the prophetic voice of missionaries. It is they who have heard and stayed with this cry, that it might be heard by the Vatican and that REPAM be recognized by Pope Francis as a Church organization able to offer theological and pastoral support to the churches in the care of the original Amazon peoples, as well as their natural resources.
I would like to conclude with the following words of Pope Francis, which the Provincial Ministers of Colombia invite us to read, meditate upon, and put into practice: “I wish to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy, while pointing out new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come.” In a passage following, the Pope encourages “everyone to apply [these] guidelines […] generously and courageously, without inhibitions or fear.”
Br. Manuel Alfonso Vargas Reales, OFM Cap.