14 September 2018

Pope Francis encourages and challenges the Order

Early this afternoon, around 250 Capuchin friars, including the capitulars, capitular staff and a few friars from the General Curia, met briefly with Pope Francis in the Sala Clementina of the Vatican. He greeted the outgoing general minister, Br. Mauro J√∂hri, and the newly-elected Br. Roberto Genuin, and, after a few words of appreciation from both of them, Pope Francis addressed the assembly. He began by telling us that he had a prepared talk, but that it was "too formal for Capuchins" so he decided to speak without notes. If you want, however, you can find the text of the prepared talk here.

Leaving the Sala Clementina after the Papal Audience.
He began by noting that he has now personally met four Capuchin general ministers. He met Br. Flavio Roberto Carraro at a Synod of Bishops. He also met Br. John Corriveau, who "stole a friar from my country to make him a general definitor." He then added, "but we made John Corriveau a bishop so now we're even!" Pope Francis first met Br. Mauro in Argentina, when he was still the Cardinal of Buenos Aires.

He went on to note three distinguishing characteristics of Capuchins. The first, he said, was our nearness to the people. We are rightly called "Frati del popolo" (Brothers of the people) because we remain close to everyone, especially the poor and the marginalized. He recalled his recent visit to the Capuchin Day Center in Dublin, where the people are welcomed with no questions asked. All are welcomed and treated with dignity.

The second distinguishing characteristic is our ability to bring peace, especially peace within consciences through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Here he recalled a famous Capuchin confessor in Argentina, who spent hours each day in the confessional and helped to reconcile many people and families. [He refers often to this Capuchin friar, and once related how, after a long day in the confessional, he went to the chapel and prayed, "Forgive me, Lord, for being too lenient today, but remember: you were the one who set a bad example for me!"]

Thirdly, he spoke of our prayer life, and especially our contemplative prayer. He urged us to become schools of prayer for Christians.

The audience started about 45 minutes late due to his heavy schedule this morning, but he still took the time to greet each of us personally. It was almost 3 o'clock in the afternoon before we arrived back at the International College and could eat our lunch, but the smiles on the faces of the friars said that the chance to meet the Holy Father was worth the wait.

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