Rome (Agenzia Fides) - "It is necessary to identify concrete ways ways of 'going out' on mission, responding with joy to the Lord who calls us to conversion, bearing witness to the Gospel according to the authentic Franciscan way of life, in today's rapidly changing world". This is what Father Michael Perry OFM, American friar and former minister general of the Order of Friars Minor, tells Fides, speaking about the commitment and challenges related to evangelization that Franciscan religious face with their missionary activity in the five continents. At the General Chapter of the Order of Friars Minor, held in Rome from July 3 to 18, Father Michael Perry, outgoing Minister General, gave way as the 121st successor of Saint Francis to the Italian friar Massimo Fusarelli. The Friars Minor are currently present in 119 countries. The latest statistics show a decline in vocations in North America (minus 31% in the last 10 years), followed by Western Europe (minus 25%). While growth continues in Africa, Asia and Oceania (+ 18%).
"The missionary spirit of the Order - explains Friar Michael - has paved the way and continues to do so since its beginnings: the friars are not only in the big cities, but also on the peripheries of the world and in different contexts, where they carry out their service trying to face all the problems of the contemporary world. Today - he continues - we are experiencing radical changes, such as the economic revolution linked to globalization, the digital revolution and the bioethical revolution that disrupts our way of acting on nature. New forms of poverty have emerged, such as the unemployment of many young people, and then the problem of migratory flows that now see huge masses of people involved".
How to live the Franciscan charism in today's world? "Just as the world is changing rapidly – says the religious - our Order is also facing profound changes". In the General Chapter of the Order, he points out, "we highlighted the fact that the proclamation of the Gospel is more effective when it takes place in a dialogical way - explains Friar Michael - for this reason we intend to develop programs of life and intercultural formation, to be even more in communion with the poor, in a spirit of proximity and fraternity with the last". The Franciscan observes: "The evangelization of cultures and the promotion of peace include the development of a 'cultural intelligence' which implies the awareness of how our culture affects us in terms of sensitivity towards the people in contact with us: these can express different cultural expressions and needs. It is important - underlines Friar Michael - to become 'bridges of dialogue and understanding' taking into account that cultural intelligence includes the ability to use technology and artificial intelligence as tools of evangelization". "The Franciscans are called to build a more fraternal and evangelical world - concludes the former Minister General - Living in fraternal communion is part of our vocation: living the Gospel in fraternal communion, seeking to build fraternity among all peoples and with all creatures. This - he concludes - means that fraternity is at the center of our vocation and, above all, it is our 'union of life' with the other fraternities of the Franciscan Order". (ES) (Agenzia Fides, 17/7/2021)