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Fra Michael Perry, Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor, Visits the Custody

On the morning of Saturday, October 26th, the Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor, Fra Michael Perry was the principal concelebrant of daily Mass in front of the tomb in the Holy Sepulchre. To mark the occasion, the Custody of the Holy Land invited the religious communities of Jerusalem to join the friars who came from the monasteries in Jerusalem.

In his homily, the Minister General meditated on the figure of Mary Madeleine proposed by the gospel in the verse: “On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran…” (Jn 20:1-2)

“How often do we, too, run… escape,” he asked. “We flee the things that frighten us, that take us by surprise, that threaten our identity and the false feeling of security that we have built for ourselves.”
“Let us not close ourselves off to the novelty that God wants to bring into our lives. Let us not be paralyzed by fear. This is the propitious moment to accept the change that God is offering us personally, that he is offering the Order, the Custody. The Lord has rolled back the stone to give us abundant life. Jesus lives!”
“Let us sing, live, proclaim reconciliation, God’s closeness and love and hope every day. Let us do this wholeheartedly in our fraternities, at work, in our everyday lives. Let us not close our hearts. The tomb is empty. It could not contain the force of the God’s hope and love that is offered to each of us and to the entire created world. Let us open ourselves to the novelty of life, to the dawn of a new world and a new future that God has prepared for us.”

This message of renewal in one’s individual and Franciscan vocation at the heart of the Custody was one of the messages that the Minister General wanted to bring to the friars of the Custody of his short but intense stay.

His visit from the 24th to the 26th of October, the second one after his lightening visit during the Custodial Chapter in July, brought him to meet the friars of Judea in Jerusalem and of the Galilee in Nazareth for two inspiring encounters, as well as the Poor Clares of the two cities and some individual friars. During his visit, the Minister General also participated in a meeting of the Custodial Discretorium, which did not stop him from taking the time to meet the friars in the infirmary and those of Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, as well as paying a visit to the Apostolic Delegate in Jerusalem.

Everyone noticed his accessibility in spite of a very full schedule, as well as his desire to instill in the Order and the Custody a new style, a style that is directly aligned with that of Pope Francis.

Fra Michael Perry, born in Indianapolis (USA) in 1954, was elected Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor in May 2013, replacing Fra Jose Rodriguez Carballo, who had been called to the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

Between meetings, he was able to answer a few questions.
Saint Francis called the Holy Land the “pearl of Missions”; would today’s Minister General say the same thing?
How could I say otherwise? It’s true. But it is, perhaps, the meaning of “mission” that has evolved. According to Franciscan sources Francis had the desire to announce the gospel and invite people to Christian conversion. Upon coming to the region, he found a country at war and his message changed, evolving toward a call to the conversion of hearts to peace.
Today our presence here is confronting such diversity, the sources of conflicts are so numerous, that the message of Saint Francis—which remains our message—is more important than ever, on the condition that our presence is in the service of the Christian population here, but also other beliefs, other religious, ethnic and cultural groups, and also of the pilgrims. We must offer dialogue; we must be artisans of peace among us Christians and with others. It is God himself who invites us to this future of peace and reconciliation, this future of the unity of humanity.

Is this the message you left with the friars during your visit?
I invited the friars to renew their Franciscan lives, and in so doing to renew their relationship with the Lord, with Jesus. And at the same time to give themselves opportunities to be open to others, because it is Christ who invites us, who takes us by the hand to approach the peoples of the region, the world. We must simplify our life and we must make ourselves lighter to move toward the world.

Is it possible, when the Franciscans stand at the head of such a multicultural institution, to simplify their life?
The friars bear a great responsibility that was entrusted to them by the Church. One might say, as one says of Rome, that the structures are imposing. But it is not the structures that count: it is the quality of life, the quality of presence. And I believe that structures can be used to invite people to discover themselves in their humanity, and through their humanity to encounter the presence of God, the spiritual presence within us, the dignity of each individual. In this sense structures can aid in the conversion of each of us; they do not have to be an obstacle. We can always simplify our lives and make ourselves closer to the poor. But I see that the friars are already present to the poor, that they are with those who are sick or in need, that they are present in the field of formation, present to promote the living space.

Do you have a message for the inhabitants of the Holy Land?
Do not be afraid. God is with you. Do not be afraid; the friars are with you. Do not be afraid; peace in the Holy Land is in God’s hands. Do not be afraid. Do not emigrate. Do not leave this region; do not leave this Holy Land. You have the mission to sanctify the earth.

Minister General’s Visit to the SBF

On October 26, 2013, the Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor, Fra Michael A. Perry, visited the Flagellation Monastery, seat of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum. Later in the morning, he met with all the resident Franciscans, including the invited professors and the students from various provinces of the Order. In the fraternity’s garden, Father Najib Ibrahim introduced him to each of the friars one by one. After greetings and fraternal exchanges with each member of the community, the minister spoke of his own student days and about teaching in different houses of the Order, including some in missionary regions. He invited us to turn to the Curia General when and as needed. On his part, in his capacity of Grand Chancellor of the Pontifical University Antonianum, he assured us of his closeness to our institution. The director of the Studium, Father Massimo Pazzini, facilitated the second part of the visit. The visit ended with refreshments in community.

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