Rome, 22 March 2023. From 22 to 24 March, the meeting of the Coordination Committee of the Franciscan Network of the Mediterranean, organised by the General Office for Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation (JPIC), is being held at the General Curia in Rome.
It began with a prayer led by Br Taucen Girsang (Deputy Director of the General JPIC Office), centred on the Gospel of Matthew 25:35 ("For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you gave me hospitality"). Then Br Daniel Rodríguez Blanco, Director of the Office, presented the objectives of the meeting. "In general," said Br Daniel, "it is important to take up the path of the Franciscan Network of the Mediterranean to implement a short- and medium-term work project that will allow its consolidation. Specifically, we should approach the current reality of the Mediterranean, which offers input for making decisions based on the needs and opportunities that arise in this part of the world. Furthermore, knowing the recent history of the Franciscan Network of the Mediterranean, we could create a continuity with the previous work and thus trace out a path to follow for the coming months, specifying the steps and preparing the next meeting of the Committee".
Br Ignacio Ceja Jiménez, Vicar General, welcomed the participants with a message of hope and realism: "This meeting takes place a few days after the 10th anniversary of the pontificate of Pope Francis, who chose this name so as not to forget the poor. His first trip outside Rome was to Lampedusa to denounce the world's culture of indifference towards migrants and the poor. The 2021 General Chapter of the Order wanted to emphasise how we friars must let ourselves be challenged by the challenges of today. Our task is to develop this Franciscan Network of the Mediterranean and encourage projects concerning migrants: it must not be a commitment only of some "special" brothers and sisters. It must be part of our Franciscan evangelising mission. We must all become aware of this issue".
The conference is being attended by representatives of the Mediterranean NGO Saving Humans, Sr. Miriam Oyarzo, FMSC, working in Turkey; Br. Fabio L'amour, OFM, working in Morocco; Pedro Fernández, OFS, from Valencia (Spain); Br. John Luke, OFM, from Greece; Br. Francesco Zecca, OFM, from the OIKOS Project; Br. Markus Heinze, OFM, Executive Director of Franciscans International; Br. Fausto Yudego, OFM, from Spain.
The Franciscan Network of the Mediterranean was born in 2019 in Malta on the occasion of the 8th centenary of the meeting of St Francis with Sultan Malik al-Kamil, and encouraged by the Minister General at the time, Brother Michael Perry.
The Network wants to make the Franciscan presence in the Mediterranean fruitful, promoting the culture of encounter, dialogue and fraternity and triggering practical projects. The Friars Minor, who are present in all the Mediterranean countries, accepting the invitation of Pope Francis to listen to the cry that comes from the waters of the mare nostrum, intend to launch practical processes to transform the Mediterranean into a Common Home, following the paradigm of integral ecology.
This objective will be achieved by the Friars Minor through the Office of Justice Peace and Integrity of Creation, in collaboration with the Pontifical Antonianum University, the Pontifical International Marian Academy, the Muslim-Christian Marian Commission and other partners.
"The Mediterranean is precisely the sea of mestizaje - if we do not understand mestizaje, we will never understand the Mediterranean - a sea geographically closed to the oceans, but culturally always open to encounter, dialogue and mutual enculturation" (Pope Francis)