29th November 2023, 800 years of the Regula Bullata

Br. Cesare Vaiani OFM recounts the relevance of St. Francis’ intuition

14 November 2023

On the 29th November, 2023, there will be a celebration for the entire Franciscan Family for the 800th anniversary of the Rule, organized in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, in Rome
A celebration at which the Ministers General of the Franciscan Family will be present, and which is intended to commemorate the approval of the Rule that took place at St. John Lateran, where the Pope resided at that time.  The celebration will also be streamed live on the website and

On the occasion of the VIII Centenary of the Regula Bullata of the Order of Friars Minor we interviewed Br. Cesare Vaiani, OFM, Definitor General and member of the Franciscan Family Committee for the VIII Franciscan Centenary.

Br. Caesar, the Rule was approved on the 29th November, 1223, after 800 years, what do want to say today about this to Franciscans all over the world? 

The meaning of this Centenary, especially for us friars who are still committed to living the Rule, is to rediscover what is said in extreme synthesis at the beginning of that same Rule: The Rule and life of the Friars Minor is this: to observe the Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, living in obedience, without anything of our own and in chastity. At its conclusion, this centrality of the Gospel is taken up again, affirming that we always desire to be humble and submissive at the feet of Holy Church in order to observe the Holy Gospel as we have promised. The intuition is that the Rule is a putting into practice precisely what the Gospel stands for. I believe that this is the most important meaning of the Centenary for us Franciscans.

The path that led Francis to the Rule was not without internal tensions within the fraternity. Can you tell us about it? 

The Regula Bullata was preceded by historical shaping of many years, starting in 1209, when Francis with his friars went to the Pope to have his way of life approved: on that occasion he received only an oral approval, verbally. Then every year, that brief text that Francis had brought was submitted to the Chapter of Pentecost, to a revision by the assembled friars in which affirmations, phrases, "new articles" were added, we would say today, the result of the verification that took place in each Chapter. And so those few simple words became the 24 Chapters that we possess in the so-called Regula non Bullata of 1221. We do not know why that text was not proposed for Papal approval: probably the Roman Curia itself made it known that it was too long and unconventional for a Rule. There was probably a demand for a shorter and somewhat more legal text. Francis himself was in charge of the drafting of this new text, not least because no one could think that anyone other than he could put his hand to it. In this redaction, which took place in Fonte Colombo [The Province of Rieti, Italy]. According to tradition he was helped by Brother Leo, his secretary and friend in his last years, and also by a certain Friar Bonizzo of Bologna, of whom we know almost nothing, and certainly also by Cardinal Ugolino, because he himself, after he became Pope [Gregory IX, ed.], approved it in the Bull Quo elongati which he wrote a few years after the death of St. Francis. There were other consultations, as the biographical sources recount, which also tell of the friars' objection to Francis and the Rule he was writing. 

After all these events, certainly accompanied by a certain tension, in 1223 - probably at Pentecost 1223 - Francis' text was presented, revised once again, approved by the Chapter and presented to the Roman Curia. The Pope approved it on the 29th November, 1223.

The Committee of the Franciscan Family has been working for a year on these Centenary Celebrations: Can you give us an initial assessment of this experience of collaboration? And what are the future developments? 

The Committee, of which I am also a member, began by sending a text that was designed to support the entire Franciscan Family in the celebration, entitled: A Centenary articulated and celebrated in several centenaries. It offers guidelines, contents of the celebration of each of the four years that we will celebrate from 2023 until 2026. If there is one thing we have in common as a Franciscan Family, it is St. Francis and the Centenary Celebrations. In this sense they are not exclusive to the Friars Minor, the Capuchins, the Conventuals, the Third Order Regular, the Secular Franciscan Order or the various female and male institutes of the Third Order Regular; that is, it is not exclusive to a single member of the Franciscan Family. 

The Centenary of St. Francis is something that unites us naturally. Celebrating it together will be a sign of collaboration, of unity, and we believe that if one of the results of these Centenaries is to increase the capacity for collaboration amongst the different components of the Franciscan Family, then great! we will have already achieved a great result. We hope it will be an opportunity to rediscover our collaboration. 

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