“Franciscans Among People of Diverse Faiths”: International Conference on Inter-Religious Dialogue (IRD) for Peaceful Coexistence in Multicultural Societies

On October 18-21, 2017, an International Conference on Inter-Religious Dialogue (IRD) for Peaceful Coexistence in Intercultural Societies was held at the Couvent Notre Dame du Puits, Bkenneya, Beirut, Lebanon. More than fifty participants attended the 4 days conference with the theme “Franciscans Among People of Other Faiths”. Majority of the participants were Capuchin friars from over 20 countries. They were joined by other Franciscans including OFM Conventuals, OFM, FMM sisters, and Secular Franciscans (OFS). The presence of Muslim participants from Kenya (representing the Damietta Peace Initiative) and Lebanon graced the conference.

Group photo 1


The conference began with the Holy Mass celebrated by  Fr. Tanios, the Custos of Lebanon. In his homily, he welcomed all participants and reiterated the value and significance of IRD  in our witness of God’s love to all people both Christians and non-Christians for peaceful coexistence.

The conference was divided into three interlocked sessions. The first part contextualized the involvement of friars in IRD. As such participants presented reports from their various countries including from Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Kenya, Lebanon, Malaysia, Malta, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, Syria, Tanzania, Turkey,  United Arab Emirates,  and United States of America. This helped to enlighten participants on the work being done to promote IRD in different parts of the world. Fr. Silvestro Bajan OFMConv, General Delegate for Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue of the Order of the Friars Minor Conventuals in Assisi, presented on IRD- Paradigms of Theological Interpretations. His lecture gave a  theological basis for IRD in the Church. Another enlightening perspective was given by Sheikh Ahmad Taleb who spoke on the Muslim perspective of IRD. This was complemented by Fr. Fadi Daou’s reflection on IRD and Evangelization. The first part was nicely concluded by  Fr. Varghese Manimala OFMCap who engaged participants on the topic- IRD in a post-secular world.

The second part of the conference was oriented into addressing contemporary issues on IRD. In this case, Dr. Paschal Robert OFM guided the participants to reflect on IRD and peacebuilding, religious fundamentalism and fanatism. The lecture was of much interest to the participants.  Sr. Lilian Curaming FMM,  highly experienced in IRD, reminded participants of their Franciscans roots in IRD, her presentation was titled “Franciscans Dialogue among Muslims and people of other faiths”. At the end of the second sessionDr. Mohamed El-Sammak greatly inspired participants on the topic understanding Islam and relating with Muslims. His extensive knowledge of both Islam and Christianity was greatly appreciated and enlightened participants on theology and practices of both faiths.

Despite lectures, there were interesting roundtable discussions, small group sharing, visits to Mosques, Churches, shrines and other places of interest in Lebanon. All these were meant to inform, integrate and inspire participants to be fully immersed in the seminar training.

The final part of the conference helped participants to plan for future engagement in the ministry of IRD in the order and beyond.  In this case, drawing from knowledge and experience acquired during the seminar, participants were able to draw up conclusions and make proposals and recommendations for the future. With the help of the reduction committee of six people, an IRD peace statement was released by the participants. In addition, suggestions were put forth for the creation of guidelines on IRD for Capuchin friars around the world.  The conference finished with the symbolic act of the signing of IRD peace statement and presentation of certificates of attendance to the participants.  The Bishop of Beirut, a Muslim representative, and Br. Pistorius OFMCap (who represented the Minister General OFMCap), witnessed this process of commitment by the participants. The conference was brought a conclusion by the celebration of Holy Mass presided over by most reverend Cèsar Essayan OFMConv, vicar apostolic of Beirut.

Joel De Jesus


Giving certificates, Silvestro

Giving of certificates


signing of the peace statment

Singing of the IRD peace statement

final mass

Final Mass

Final pic

Final Picture



Alle radici del nostro carisma: il dialogo

group with orthodox priest

In memoria dello storico incontro tra Francesco  e il sultano Malik al Kamil 45 persone si sono riuniti in Libano per il primo incontro interfrancescano organizzato dai Cappuccini. In modo particolare gli artefici, oltre all’ufficio di Giustizia, Pace e Integrità del Creato diretto da fr. Benedict Avoid, sono stati i frati libanesi. La Curia Generale e altri benefattori hanno collaborato alla buona riuscita dell’evento  L’incontro  si è svolto vicino a Beirut nella casa di spiritualità di Notre Dame de Puits un centro fondato dal nostro beato cappuccino Jacques Haddad (il beato Abuna Yakob).  Oltre ai frati provenienti da 20 paesi tra i presenti erano annoverati quattro sorelle FMM, fr . Robert Pachal  OFM della provincia di  Pakistan,  fr. Silvestro Bejan, incaricato OFMConv per il dialogo interreligioso ed ecumenico e due sorelle OFS. La presenza di una donna musulmana proveniente da Kenia e collaboratrice del progetto Damietta completava il  numero dei partecipanti fissi a cui si aggiungevano ogni giorno ospiti illustri e graditi, come il vescovo di Beirut, mons. Césaire Essayan, i postnovizi, i postulanti e i frati del Libano, insieme a fratelli e sorelle della fraternità OFS  locale ed alcuni esponenti del mondo musulmano. Si è trattato prima di tutto di una esperienza di preghiera e di fraternità in cui si è creato il clima per parlare di dialogo. I frati hanno condiviso la loro esperienza nelle rispettive circoscrizioni e insieme si è riflettuto su una prassi comune del dialogo. In questo lavoro sono stati di aiuto le riflessioni di fr. Varghes Manimala, OFMCap, di fr. Robert Pachal OFM,  di fr. Silvestro  Beja OFM, di don Fadi Daou, di sr. Lilian Curaming  FFM, del Mufti Ahman Taleb e del dottor Mohamed Al-Sammak, esponenti del mondo musulmano. Possiamo vedere come diversi interventi venissero dall’interno dell’assemblea. Questo mostra come il nostro mondo fratesco abbia qualcosa da dire sul dialogo, proprio perché, come abbiamo riscoperto insieme, esso fa parte del nostro DNA francescano. Al termine dell’incontro tutti i partecipanti hanno firmato una dichiarazione che verrà pubblicata a breve e si sono impegnati, davanti al vescovo di Beirut, a un rappresentante musulmano e a fr. Pictorius (che rappresentava il ministro generale) a proseguire l’impegno del dialogo interreligioso nelle proprie circoscrizioni nella sequela di Cristo, nella letizia e nella fraternità francescana.

Luca Minuto

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End of Season of Creation: Webinar recording- prayer service online

Feast of St. Francis Prayer Service online, Webinar. 

Leaders from around the globe gathered online for a prayer service to celebrate the Feast of St. Francis and the closing of the Season of Creation, see the webinar recording below and the highlight video.


Season of Creation Highlights Video

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On the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, more than 40 Catholic institutions made the largest ever faith-based divestment, ridding themselves of all holdings in fossil fuels.

fossil fuels

Italian prime minister, Paolo Gentiloni, visited Assisi Wednesday to commemorate the feast of Italy’s patron St. Francis, in conjunction with the town’s announcement it was divesting itself of all oil, coal and gas holdings in a gesture aimed against commonly cited causes of manmade global warming.

The Sacro Convento in Assisi, the spiritual home of the Franciscans throughout the world, is among the 40 Catholic institutions and organizations jointly announcing their adherence to an international ecological campaign calling for the disinvestment from all fossil fuels in the hopes of combatting climate change.

The Mayor of Assisi, Stefania Proietti, indicated the city’s extensive olive groves as an effective tool for “mitigating climate change” because of the tree’s ability to absorb the large quantities of carbon dioxide it needs in order to grow and produce olives.

In this video the Mayor of Assisi announced pubblicly from St.Francis Square the the divestment committment of the Municipality

“In a world in which the ecological crisis is an external manifestation of the ethical, cultural and spiritual crisis of modernity, it is necessary to recall the values of custody of creation, the preferential option for the poor, and the peace that is built in everyday life, including with attention to the care of the common home,” she said.

The Assisi diocese joined the dioceses of Caserta and Gubbio in this symbolic gesture, along with dozens of other Catholic organizations throughout the world, such as the Archdiocese of Cape Town, the Belgian bishops conference, the German Bank for Church and Caritas.

In this new wave of “ethical investing,” the total figure of divestiture for the church groups involved has not been disclosed but is reportedly four times higher than a previous church record.

Coordinating these efforts is the Global Catholic Climate Change Movement, (GCCM) which in January sponsored the first world conference on fossil fuel divestment from a Catholic perspective at Rome’s Pontifical Lateran University.

“The moral clarity of these 40 institutions is a source of deep joy,” said Tomás Insua, the director of the Movement. “Their leadership is launching a path that the World Bank and its financial organs should follow. Considering that the World Bank is meeting these days in Washington, we hope its leaders will notice that the fossil-free movement has grown and is getting stronger.”

Christiana Figueres, the former UN climate tsar who helped negotiate the Paris climate accord, lauded the move as “a further sign we are on the way to achieving our collective mission”.

“I hope we will see more leaders like these 40 Catholic institutions commit, because while this decision makes smart financial sense, acting collectively to deliver a better future for everybody is also our moral imperative,” she said.

Earlier this year, Pope Francis momentarily departed from his denunciation of fossil fuels, offering a large donation of tons of cost-effective “fuel briquettes” to heat the homes of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Ukraine.

As part of the “Pope for Ukraine” initiative, Francis donated more than 2.5 tons of fuel per displaced family cared for by the parish of the Holy Theotokos in the village of Vilcha. The combustible fuel briquettes reportedly were sufficient to heat the homes and apartments of more than a hundred resettled families throughout the heating season and into the coming winter as well.

The politically incorrect gift highlighted the cost-effectiveness and ready availability of fossil fuels, which were responsible for powering the industrial revolution throughout the developed world.

Pope Francis has been a vocal advocate of clean, renewable energy and the reduction of carbon emissions. His groundbreaking 2015 encyclical letterLaudato Si, on care for the environment was the first teaching letter of its sort in the history of the Catholic Church.

In that text, Francis wrote of an “urgent need” to take steps leading to the substitution of fossil fuels with alternative energy sources.

Meanwhile, the Conference of Franciscan Family (CFF), the Major Superiors of the six different Franciscan branches worldwide, are planning to take a collective action to encourage Franciscans to divest and reinvest.

Thomas  Williams 

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International Capuchin Fraternity Project in the Amazon

International Capuchin Fraternity Project

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

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.

Last modified on Wednesday, 27 September 2017 16:17