Message of the General Minister, Br. Roberto Genuin, to the Holy Father
We Capuchin friars gathered for the 85th General Chapter are deeply grateful for this opportunity to meet with you that you have benevolently granted. We offer you our fraternal thanks and we wish to renew, into your hands, in the manner and with the words of St. Francis of Assisi, the profession of “obedience and reverence to the Lord Pope.” (Earlier Rule, prologue, 3)
All the brothers of the Order, here represented by the brother capitulars, express their cordial closeness to you and, as you never fail to ask, remember you in their daily prayer to the Lord that He might support and strengthen you in your apostolic ministry, even when trials and tribulations make themselves felt.
“Come, learn from me … and you will find rest.” (Mt 11:29) These were the words of Christ that guided the brother capitulars in these days of brotherhood and reflection. Moved by the desire to be ever more his true disciples in our time, we studied and discussed in particular the topic of the Ratio formationis for the whole Order. The text, having been in development for a long time with collaboration from the various expressions of our life in the world, saw us unquestionably united and in agreement about the values that characterize our identity and charism, and that we can sum up in the terms fraternity and minority.
Holy Father, the Capuchin Order has begun to celebrate the five hundredth anniversary of the day when Pope Clement VII, on July 3, 1528, authorized a group of friars to live sine glossa the Rule and Testament of St. Francis of Assisi. Five hundred years marked by a great number of brothers, canonized saints and everyday saints, blesseds given this title by the Church and blesseds kept in the secret of the heart of the Capuchin brotherhood, all intensely drawn in and in love with the gaze of the Crucified, which is the same gaze of God’s Love for humanity.
So seduced, they dedicated their lives to an industrious charity, to welcome and to closeness to all, in a continual going out of themselves in order to make a return on the gift they had received. This is why the Capuchin friars have always been known as friars of the people, not closed in their own relationship with Christ, as precious and fertile as this is, but able to give back with simplicity and generosity what they themselves have received, going out to meet all kinds of people and making known to the men and women they met that the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is truly good news, and brings peace and joy to those who receive it.
As you, Holy Father have remarked, “The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. […] With Christ joy is constantly born anew.” (Evangelii gaudium, 1)
Therefore, we Capuchin friars are moved again today to put ourselves and our international fraternity at the service of the Church and the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are moved anew to go out to meet the world, among those who have forgotten or rejected Him as well as those who do not yet know Him, that the joy of the Gospel may reach everyone.
Beloved Father, we thank you very much for your fraternal closeness, for your evangelical courage, and in a special way, for the push to renew our religious life and the charism we have received, putting these at the service of the Church and its mission in the world. We assure you of our great esteem and our constant prayer, that the Spirit may support and strengthen the flame that, through you, is being lit in the Church and in the consecrated life in particular.
Holy Father, we are eager to listen to your words today. May they guide and confirm us in our will to persevere in the propositum vitae that the Lord inspired in Brother Francis and the “the Lord Pope confirmed” (Testament, 15) by his apostolic authority.
And before we continue our journey, I ask for your paternal blessing. I ask for myself at the beginning of my service as General Minister, and I ask for all the Capuchin brothers throughout the one hundred and ten nations of the world where we are present, that each, strengthened in his own purpose, might live poverty in gladness, chastity in fidelity, and obedience with joy, ready to let himself be approached by Christ, our joy and our hope.
Br. Roberto Genuin, OFM Cap.
Rome, 14 September 2018
Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
Audience with the Participants in the General Chapter of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin
Unscripted remarks of Pope Francis at the audience
Here’s the prepared speech, but it’s too formal to share with you Capuchins … it will be given to Father General … there it is, that’s the official one. But I prefer to speak to you like this, from the heart. To you [he turns to the newly elected General Minister, Br. Roberto Genuin] I wish all the best. You are the fourth General that I have met. First I knew Flavio Carraro; we were together at the Synod in ’94. Then, John Corriveau, who robbed Argentina of a good Capuchin to make him councilor, but then I was vindicated and he was made bishop. [smiles, laughter]. Then Mauro [Jöhri], who, as a good Swiss, moved things forward with good sense – good sense – with a practical sense of realities; he, like everyone who knows languages and also dialect, he is one who knows how to get down into the details of life. And now you, the fourth. I wish you [the General Minister and new Councilors] all the best.
I was thinking of you this morning. There’s a word you mentioned in your remarks: the Capuchins are first of all “friars of the people.” It is what characterizes you. Closeness to the people. To be close to the people of God, close. And this closeness gives us that knowledge of the concrete, that wisdom – it’s more than knowledge, it’s a wisdom. Closeness to all, but above all to the little ones, the discarded, the most desperate. And even to those who have distanced themselves. I think of Br. Cristoforo [from the novel The Betrothed], your Br. Cristoforo. Closeness. I wish for this word to remain in you, like a plan of life. Closeness to the people. Because people have a great respect for the Franciscan habit. One time Cardinal Quarracino told me that, in Argentina, sometimes an anticlerical person would curse a priest, but never one in a Franciscan habit, because it’s a grace. And you Capuchins have this closeness. Preserve it. Always close to the people. Because you are the friars of the people.
Recently, in Ireland, I saw your work with the most needy and I was moved. And the superior of that house, the old founder, said something beautiful: “We, here, do not ask where do you come from, who you are. You are a son of God.” This characterizes you. To understand well, to have an instinct for people, without conditions. Someone comes to you, then you see. It is your charism, this closeness. Preserve it.
Then there is another aspect of the Capuchins: you are men who are able to resolve conflict, to make peace, with that wisdom that comes from your closeness – above all making peace in consciences. That “Here we don’t ask questions, here we listen’, as that Irish Capuchin said, this you do very much in the sacrament of confession and penance. You are men of reconciliation. I remember your church in Buenos Aires: many people from all over the city went to confess there. Because those confessors listened to you, smiled with you, didn’t ask you questions and pardoned you. And this doesn’t mean being ‘lenient’ [di manica larga], no, this is the wisdom of reconciliation. Keep at this apostolate of confession, of pardon. It is one of the beautiful things that you have, to reconcile the people, either in the sacrament or in families. Reconcile, reconcile. And you need patience for this, not words, few words, but closeness and patience.
And then, another thing I have seen in your life: simple prayer. You are men of prayer, but simple prayer. A prayer face to face with the Lord, with Our Lady, with the saints … keep at this simplicity in prayer. Pray a lot, but with this simplicity. Men of peace, of simple prayer, men of the people, men of reconciliation. This is what the Church wants you to be: keep at it. And with that freedom and simplicity that is proper to your charism.
I thank you for you do for the Church, I thank you very much. Continue, continue, in this Capuchin way [alla cappuccina] [laughter] … thank you!
Prepared Address of the Holy Father
Dear Friars Minor Capuchin,
I am glad of this meeting, which allows me to greet you personally on the occasion of your General Chapter. I thank the new Minister General, Fra’ Roberto Genuin, and send good wishes to him and his Council. In these days of study and fraternal exchange, you have focused on the theme “Learn from me ... and you will find” (cf. Mt 11: 29), to identify apostolic and formative perspectives to offer to your confreres scattered throughout the world. In fact, besides the election of the new government of your Fraternity, you have devoted ample space to the Ratio Formationis Ordinis, an important document for leading the consecrated person into the heart of the Gospel, which is the form of life of Jesus, totally spent for God and for your brothers, especially the marginalized and the last among us.
In the footsteps of the Divine Master and following the example of Saint Francis, who learned humbleness and service by encountering lepers, strive to live relationships and religious activity in gratuitousness, humility and meekness. In this way you can realize with real and daily gestures the “minority” that characterizes the followers of Francis. It is a precious gift of great necessity to the Church and for the humanity of our time. This is how the Lord acts: He does things simply. Humility and simplicity are the style of God; and it is this style that all of us as Christians are called to assume in our life and in our mission. The true greatness is to become small and servants.
With this minority in your heart and lifestyle, you make your contribution to the Church’s great commitment to evangelization. You do so by generously carrying out the apostolate in direct contact with different peoples and cultures, especially with so many poor and suffering people. I encourage you in this effort, which you have shared at the international level in the Chapter, urging you not to lose heart in the face of difficulties, including the decline in number of friars in certain areas, but rather to renew every day your trust and hope in support of the grace of God. May the joy of the Gospel, which irresistibly fascinated the Poverello of Assisi, be the source of your strength and constancy, because with reference to the Word of Jesus everything appears in a new light, that of God’s providential love. Every time we draw from the source to recover the original freshness of the Gospel, there emerge new paths, new pastoral approaches and creative methods relevant to current circumstances.
Our time shows signs of obvious spiritual and moral discomfort, due to the loss of the sure and comforting references of faith. How great a need people have today to be welcomed, listened to, illuminated with love! And what a great tradition you Capuchins have of everyday closeness to the people, in sharing in their concrete problems, in spiritual conversation and in the administration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation! Do not fail to be teachers of prayer, to cultivate a robust spirituality, which communicates to everyone the call of the “things from above”.
In this, you will be more convincing if your communities and structures too express sobriety and parsimony, a visible sign of that primacy of God and of His Spirit, to which consecrated persons commit themselves to bearing clear witness. From this perspective, even the transparent and professional management of economic resources is the image of a true family that walks in co-responsibility and in solidarity between its members and with the poor. Another important aspect of the life of your communities is unity and communion, realized by dedicating ample space to listening and dialogue so as to strengthen fraternal discernment.
The history of your Order is full of many courageous witnesses of Christ and the Gospel, many of whom are proclaimed Saints and Blessed. Their holiness confirms the fruitfulness of your charism and shows the signs of your identity: total consecration to God unto martyrdom, where required, simple life among people, sensitivity towards the poor, spiritual accompaniment as closeness and humility that allows us to welcome everyone. Following your typical way of life, may you walk inspired by renewed zeal, so that you may be driven with prophetic freedom and wise discernment towards courageous apostolic paths and missionary frontiers, always cultivating collaboration with the Bishops and the other components of the ecclesial community.
Your charismatic identity, enriched by the cultural variety of your religious family, is more valid than ever and is an attractive proposal for many young people of the world, who are looking for authenticity and essentiality. May fraternity shine as a qualifying element of your consecrated life, distancing you from any elitist attitude, encouraging you always to seek an encounter between yourselves and all others, especially with the many who thirst for the merciful love that only Christ can offer us.
May the Lord fill you with His graces, and in the spirit of Saint Francis proceed joyfully and sure, always in the grateful awareness of belonging to the holy faithful People of God and serving Him with humility. May the Apostolic Blessing accompany you, which I cordially impart to you, Chapter Fathers, and to your whole Order. And please, do not forget to pray me. Thank you!