The meeting with the Capuchin Conference of the Near East (ASMEN)concluded the General Definitory's meetings with each of the Order's thirteen conferences. The meeting took place in the General Curia on June 15-16. The name of the Conference is a little misleading because it comprises jurisdictions that are not, strictly speaking, in the Near East. Currently, the Conference comprises the Domus Praesentiae of Jerusalem, the Provincial Delegation of Greece, the Custody of Turkey, the Vice Province of Pakistan, the General Vice Province of Arabia and the General Vice Province of the Near East (Lebanon and Syria). There are a little over 300 friars in the Conference.
As in the case of CECOC, it is not easy to summarize the situation of this Conference. Some of these jurisdictions, most notably Jerusalem and Arabia, are purely missionary, in the sense that there are no expectations for local vocations. The possibility to operate freely and openly differs substantially among jurisdictions in this Conference. The one thing they all have in common, however, is that they live on the "fringe" of Catholicism. They are minorities in societies that are majority Muslim, Jewish or Orthodox. While that makes life challenging for the friars, it also offers opportunities to evangelize truly as minors. Our brothers in this Conference are, in a sense, living Francis' dream to preach the Gospel among the Saracens. Far from shrinking from the challenge or being discouraged by the apparent lack of results, the ministers of this area exhibited real enthusiasm. Listening to their experiences, I wondered how one could measure his success in such an environment, or if he could at all. I then wondered if I could live in a place where the only measure of success was one's faithfulness to the Gospel and the Rule. I have not been able to answer that question, but I do know that I am edified by my brothers who have accepted the challenge.