Now that the 201st Extraordinary General Chapter for the revision of the Constitutions has concluded, it is time to summarize the work that was done and give some statistics on the Chapter assembly.
112 confreres gathered at the Ad Gentes Center in Nemi-Rome; 83 had voice (with voting rights) and represented the 49 Jurisdictions of the Order. The rest were auditors or were working for the Chapter secretariat as communications officers, translators, interpreters and liturgical animators.
Three commissions worked to ensure that the Chapter was carried out properly: the Central Commission, the Juridical Commission and the Presidency Council. The preparation of the Instrumentum laboris, however, was the work of the Executive Committee for the Revision of the Constitutions (CERC) and the International Commission for the Revision of the Constitutions (CIRC).
791 votes were taken in the course of accepting the 231 articles of the final text of the renewed Constitutions. It should be noted that we voted paragraph by paragraph, wherever changes were made to the current Constitutions, and even where text had been taken out. Each time, a qualified majority of two-thirds of those entitled to vote was required.
The Chapter was officially opened by the Minister General, Friar Marco TASCA, on July 24, 2018, with the recitation of Evening Prayer and the singing of the Veni Creator. The following day, ritual duties were completed, in particular with the election of the Secretary General of the Chapter, Friar Timothy KULBICKI, and the Recording Secretary, Friar Emanuele RIMOLI.
Then, presentations were made by the members of the CERC, summarizing how they arrived at the Instrumentum, and addressing the main topics of the six chapters. The Capitulars were free to ask questions and make suggestions, thereby highlighting their positions.
Monday, July 30, was a spiritual retreat day. Our confrere, Bishop Roberto CARBONI, gave a reflection on the theme of discernment, indicating that fraternal dialogue was the main way to make decisions in the Holy Spirit.
After an additional day dedicated to discussion, voting got underway on August 1st . At first there were some technical difficulties to overcome, but then the work of the Chapter continued smoothly, especially due to the excellent functionality of the Chapter auditorium. Each Capitular was able to present his own iuxta modum, a modification of the text, or ask to resume discussion on a topic already dealt with. This meant a lot of work for the above-mentioned Commissions, who made sure that everything proceeded properly. Just as much commitment was required from the translators, who, at the end of the day, had to turn Italian texts into English, Polish and Spanish.
The first chapter of the new Constitutions was about the Evangelical life of the friars. On this chapter, particular attention was given to the Conventuals having being named a clerical Order by the Church. The proposal to let this classification stand passed because it concerned the legal foundations of our reality. Also noteworthy was the approval of a new paragraph which explained the dogma of the Immaculate Conception as the “golden thread” that has run through our history from St. Francis to St. Maximilian M. Kolbe.
On Saturday afternoon, August 4, voting began on Chapter II: The Life of Union with God. Obviously, there were no substantial divergences from the approved texts; the themes concerning our spiritual foundation were shared by everyone. Of note was the request that each Friary Chapter should schedule time for listening to, praying about, reflecting upon and discussing the Word of God.
On August 7, we moved on to the discussion and approval of Chapter III, concerning fraternal life in communion. Our being together is something that must be worked on; it cannot be taken for granted. The Friary Chapter is at the heart of this issue and, precisely for this reason, the new Constitutions reaffirm that the Friary Chapter is necessary and must be scheduled with regularity.
There was extensive discussion in the Chapter auditorium on the difficulties of being present to each other in our age of mass media. We cannot prescribe precise rules on the use of technology, but we reiterated that the common good must always take precedence. An equally hot topic was the sharing of assets; even more so during this historical time of globalization. Our Jurisdictions must be transparent in their administration of assets and be open to the needs of all the realities of the Order.
On August 9th, voting began on Chapter IV: The Mission of the Friars. Our Franciscan charism opens us up to an evangelization that is always attentive to the times we live in. Discussion in the Chapter auditorium touched on the pastoral care of parishes, which are entrusted to fraternities rather than individuals. However, the new Constitutions reaffirm that local communities must balance pastoral commitment with the demands of fraternal witness.
Ample space was given to the “missio ad gentes“. The new text attempts to define this reality in line with the indications of the papal magisterium, in particular, from St John Paul II. Also mentioned was Pope Francis’ appeal to foster communal commitment in order to safeguard creation, which is our “common house”.
On Monday, August 13, there was discussion on Chapter V: The Formation of the Friars. Particular emphasis was placed on the gradual progression of a friar’s formation journey. For this reason, it was decided that the temporarily professed are only obligated to pray Morning and Evening Prayer.
Importantly, the Capitulars accepted the UniFra Project (Franciscan University) instituting a single, inter-Franciscan university center in Rome. Likewise, they gave a simple definition of our identity as “Conventuality”, which expresses active and co-responsible fraternity, oriented towards contemplation and mission.
On August 17, voting began on Chapter VI, which deals with the service of authority in the Order. Of note was a change made to the length of term for the offices of Ministers and Custodes. The new text provides for a single reconfirmation, and so the Minister General can exercise his mandate for no more than twelve years, and Ministers Provincial and Custodes for no more than 8 years.
Also noteworthy was a motion that was approved, which allowed the Minister General to ask the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life permission to appoint seven friars, in solemn vows, not awarded Holy Orders, with active voice and proposed by the Federations, to participate in the 2019 Ordinary General Chapter.
On Wednesday, August 22, after the last votes were cast, announcements were made by Friar José Luis AVENDAÑO MONSALVE, the Custos of the Provincial Custody of Our Lady of Coromoto in Venezuela, and Friar Leo PAYYAPPILLY, the Minister Provincial of the Province of St. Maximilian M. Kolbe in India. They detailed the very difficult situations ongoing in Kerala (India) and Venezuela, and invited all the confreres to help.
The next day was dedicated to the final editing of the text of the approved Constitutions. On Friday, August 24, a pilgrimage was made to the tomb of the Seraphic Father St. Francis in Assisi. The Capitulars also concelebrated Mass which included the novices making their first profession of vows.
On August 25, the final act of the Chapter took place: the approval of the entire text of the new Constitutions. In the Chapter auditorium, the Capitulars evaluated the progress of the work that had been carried out. They all stressed the goodness of the welcome they received and the transparency of the dialogue in the Chapter auditorium. Then, Friar Ryszard WRÓBEL, the General Delegate for Communications, spoke and offered some statistical data. Currently, the Order has 24 bishops; 2797 priests; 60 transitional deacons; 11 permanent deacons; 97 solemnly professed clerical students; 470 solemnly professed religious brothers; 492 temporarily professed; and 96 novices, all adding up to a total of 4047 friars.
Finally, the Capitulars thanked the Lord by singing the Te Deum during Mass, and the Minister General blessed everyone with the words of St. Francis: “May the Lord give you peace!”
Chronickler: Friar Aurelio ERCOLI