Letter: Children praying for peace
Aleppo, 27 November 2016
First Sunday of Advent
To all the friars of the Order of Friars Minor
to the Poor Clares,
to the sisters to the brothers of the Secular Franciscan Order,
and to all women and men of good will
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father” (Matthew 18: 10).
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
May the Lord give you peace!
For a long time, as Friars Minor, we have been concerned about the situation that our brothers are experiencing together with the Christians and the entire population of Syria. Not long ago, we called on the international community to intensify its efforts to stop the war and the suffering of the civilian population and to make every effort to achieve peace.
Now, at the beginning of Advent, a time in which the Lord Jesus invites us to insistently watch and pray, we want to propose to all our communities the “Children praying for peace” initiative. It began as an idea from the “Aid to the Church in Need” project, and we wish to join it as the Order of Friars Minor, and to relaunch it on an international level on a monthly basis. This initiative comes from the awareness that the King of the Universe, the King of Peace, is the true source of all peace. Our Parish of St. Francis in Aleppo, which has been strongly affected by the tragedy of war and which has been tenaciously anchored to its hope for peace, has already joined the initiative. From Aleppo, we are now sending out our invitation to the whole world.
Starting in Advent 2016, we wish to join this initiative as the Order of Friars Minor and we want to encourage all of the communities, parishes and schools entrusted to our pastoral care and to all of the organizations close to us [to join in the initiative]; and we also encourage them to spread the word to other ecclesiastical and religious communities in the areas in which the Friars Minor as live and operate. We believe that the Lord hears the cry of the “little ones” and that their prayer their will become an opportunity for reflection and conversion for those who are “big.”
We are asking each community to dedicate their children's mass, or the mass most frequented by children, on the first Sunday of every month, to prayer for peace, according to what is locally possible. The same thing can be done in a celebration during the Oratory or by involving the schools, thus, in this way giving an ecumenical and interreligious spirit to the initiative.
If a community does not have a children's liturgy or if it does not have a ministry for Oratories or a school, it can make the gesture during the communal Praises or Vespers, or on an occasion created especially for this initiative.
Here are some practical suggestions so as to unify the form of the celebration, taking from the example of how it is done in Aleppo: after the initial greeting and the introduction of the celebration by the priest, some children will process in with a lighted candle, which will be placed near the altar, in a visible place, while all sing, or while they recite the “simple prayer” for peace.
In addition to this, different intentions from the Prayer of the Faithful will be dedicated to peace in people's hearts, peace for the families and peace in Aleppo and all around the world. The songs should also be dedicated to the theme of peace.
If the prayer is carried out outside of the Eucharistic celebration, it can always be adapted to the celebration, maintaining the symbol of the candle lighting, along with the simple prayer and songs for peace (remembering to always explain to the children that this prayer is in communion with all of the children of the world for peace in Syria, especially in Aleppo and for peace in the world).
Simple prayer for peace
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is discord, union;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is error, Truth;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is sadness, joy;
where there is darkness, light.
O Divine Master, grant That I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving That We receive,
it is in pardoning That we are pardoned,
and it is in dying That we are born to Eternal Life.
We ask all those who take heed to our proposal, to report it on to our Facebook page: bambiniinpreghieraperlapace.
God bless every effort for peace and may he listen to the cry and the prayer of His children.
Fr. Michael A. Perry OFM
Fr. Francesco Patton OFM
Custos of the Holy Land
What is the World Social Forum (WSF)
Created in 2001 at Porto Alegre, the capitol of the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, the World Social Forum was seen as a democratic space to debate, network and plan actions aimed at making concrete the Forum’s “another world is possible”. It was conceived as an opposition to and challenging the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in which in their annual meetings the rich nations programmed the neo-liberal top-down development models they proposed to the world. The Social Forum, however, was conceived as a process to promote bottom-up development and seeks to include grass-roots organizations, people’s social movements, NGOs, religious groups and all those interested in addressing the social, economic and political problems afflicting today’s world. The WSF promotes free manifestations of possible alternatives to the WEF model, exchange among citizens, complaints, inspiration, concrete commitments and the development of networking strategies that lead to concrete actions of international solidarity, social and environmental justice, social economy, participative democracy and the recognition of the equal dignity of all.
Working towards its objectives, the WSF does not put participants in positions of advancing or imposing their own visions and models, but rather brings together all those who are committed to seeking possible and shared solutions to a common theme or a common problem.
Franciscan participation at the WSFs
In its initial phase in 2001 members of the Franciscan family were present at the WSF and that presence has continued in successive Forums: Porto Alegre in 2005, Nairobi in 2007 and Tunis in 2015 . The Franciscan Family also participated in the United Nations Climate Summit in Rio de Janeiro (commonly known as Rio + 20) and in the 21st Conference of the Parties in Paris last year, commonly known as COP21
Over the years this participation has evolved thanks to the financial support of the Mission Zentrale der Franciskaner , a German Franciscan entity created to offer financial support to the missions and the social activities of the Franciscan Family.
The original presence was loosely organized and left to personal initiative but, over time it has become gradually structured and organized, involving members of the Franciscan Family in the area where the Forum is held in order to help them become better acquainted and promotes networking to involve Franciscans at the events associated to the Forum in such a way that they can become a reference for concrete interventions on behalf of the weak and marginalized.
During our participation in the Peoples’ Summit held parallel to the organized RIO +20 Summit, an international delegation composed of Franciscans involved in JPIC ( Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation) and members of Franciscans International ( FI) decided to take action on three themes from the Franciscan contribution to work for the defence of Mother Earth: Life-style ( formation and spirituality), industrial mining and opposition to the Green Economy which seeks to commodify Creation and the Environment. Since that time, much has been done in these three areas, and especially concerning mining. After their participation in COP 21, last December the Franciscan Family decided to strengthen its commitment, focusing its engagement on extractive industries as a response to the cry of the Earth, and on the economy, as a response to the cry of the Poor – the Green Economy, which has proven to be nothing but a slogan to leave everything unchanged, has died a natural death and has even disappeared from common parlance -- and life-style, as a personal and communal witness.
The Franciscan Delegation at Montreal was composed of 14 members (OFM, OFM Conv, OFM Cap, OFS, Gifra , FCJM, FAN and FI) from all parts of the world.
Through FI , it organized some well attended activities and seminars: they treated the rights of Nature and the Environment; the problem of tackling crimes against the environment and persons perpetrated by mining industries, with particular reference to the cases of Maikana in Canada e Mariana in Brazil; how to address Extreme Poverty as a human rights violation of these persons; and the document promoted by FI at the United Nations proposing the recognition of civil responsibility and penalizing the multinationals for damage caused by their activity beyond the state in which they have their legal seat ( at present, for example, since it is not Brazilian, BHP/VALE, the multinational society that owns the mine that caused the Mariana disaster, cannot be prosecuted by the Brazilian government ) .
There were also other activities on topics such as Migrants, the Encyclical Laudato Si and solidarity, agroecology, and the right to food (sustainability and sovereignty).
All these activities reconfirmed the necessity of working in synergy with other organizations and networking with them, to learn and share but also to offer concrete witness to Franciscan values; besides, as some episodes clearly showed, the world is thirsting for and seeking these values.
During a wrap-up gathering at the Forums conclusion, the delegation agreed on some points to work at to developing in the worldwide Franciscan Family:
At the conclusion of this participation all the members of the delegation -- many of whom attended the WSF for the first time -- agreed that it was very important to be present because of the great learning opportunities offered but also because their participation and presence gave them greater awareness of the necessity of responding to these challenges with organized, effective and concrete actions, and that this can happen only when we unite with other movements and organizations, and not only religious ones, who are working for the same goals. In this way, we Franciscans can learn from the experience of those who have been concretely committed for years or from those who have the necessary scientific expertise, at the same time bearing witness to our values and our spirituality, working side by side with them in a spirit of minority. This is the centre of our ministry and a confirmation of the fact that JPIC, which is said to be deeply rooted in the Franciscan DNA, can become a priority and a model for a new evangelization that allows us to defend the poor and the environment with the commitment of our life.
Report of the Franciscan delegation that participated on the World Climate Summit
from 2-10 December 2015 in Paris (COP21)
Introduction: For the first time in history, world leaders have made a public commitment to reduce global emissions and to take a hard look at the impact of climate change. For us Catholic Franciscans, the Paris COP 21 Agreement is a significant step forward on the road that leads us to care for and protect the poorest and most vulnerable people in the face of the damage resulting from climate change which by now, most scientists agree, is caused by human activity and the use of energy sources fed by fossil fuels.
The Paris COP 21 Agreement is but the beginning of a journey and we wanted to keep watch over this journey with great involvement and attention. Responding to our commitment to follow St. Francis and his spirituality in our life, we Franciscans will not rest until the vulnerable are protected, the poor achieve a better standard of living, and our common home, our Sister Mother Earth, is cared for and treated with the dignity that she deserves.
Key elements of the Paris Agreement:
i. The objective of holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C. above pre-industrial levels;
ii. A non-binding decision for the member nations to review their objectives in 2020, and every five years after that, with a goal to increasing their cuts in the projected greenhouse gas emissions and to have regular and periodic global reporting of the progress made towards the common goal of containing temperature increases.
iii. A recognition that the 100 billion US Dollars annually promised by 2020 should be the basis of a permanent fund and that the financing should be reviewed regularly along with the national objectives of reducing greenhouse gases, with the objective of new financing, the amount of which should be agreed upon by 2025.
iv. The acknowledgement that many countries are suffering loss and damage because of climate change, for which, however, the Agreement specifically excludes any responsibility or the possibility of requests for compensation.
We recognize that the Paris COP21 Agreement is an important development in the debate on possible solutions to the environmental crisis, especially in comparison with previous COP’s. Although this advancement, the agreement is weak because totally voluntary and does not address important aspects such as how to create and guarantee the financing that will allow the poorer nations to respond to the damage caused by the effects of climate change and also it doesn’t address themes related to the defense of human rights of the peoples concerned. These are some of the aspects which Pope Francis called to our attention with his Encyclical, “Laudato Sì”.
The Franciscan delegation at COP21
Continuing our commitment of presence at these moments that are so important and vital for the world, the members of the Interfranciscan JPIC Commission, commonly called Romans VI, organized and coordinated the participation of a Franciscan delegation in the work of COP 21, which resulted in the presence in Paris of 20 Franciscans from various parts of the world representing various branches of the Franciscan family. The Franciscan participation was a collaboration with Franciscans International, whose delegates participated at the official gatherings organized by the United Nations.
The goal of the delegation’s work was, through conversation and dialogue, to bring the contribution of Franciscan spirituality to existing discussions on these topics and to show that Franciscans are active and want to be increasingly and more concretely involved in the care “of our common home”, and to have a pro-active advocacy role on behalf of environmental justice and for the change of those structures that create conditions of extreme poverty and injustice.
As a result, the delegation decided to prepare a number of proposals that could be worked on together throughout the Franciscan family, which would continue and develop what was decided after our participation in RIO + 20. The proposals relate to the three areas as they relate to climate change:
We encourage one another to engage with civil societies, groups from other religions, and all people of good will in the dialogue on these topics with a goal of creating:
As a follow-up to its participation in COP 21, the delegation created working groups to define the points on which to focus attention and offered the following:
Mining and extractive industries - Industries (such as mining, lumbering, industrial fishing, agribusiness) that extract large quantities of natural resources, with their effect on the poor, or which deplete natural resources and impact the environment negatively. The group recommends actions such as:
The working group proposes a special focus on mining, industrial fishing and deforestation.
Economy – After our days at COP21, we have come to believe that the current system of economic development is flawed. Rather than helping the most vulnerable people on earth, it creates a widening gap between those who are wealthy and those who are poor. Inspired by Pope Francis in Laudato Si’: “there is a need to change models of global development; this will entail a responsible reflection on “the meaning of the economy and its goals….
In the light of these two statements we are committed to engaging the whole Franciscan Family in a process of responsible reflection which will lead to actions for climate justice.
The proposal for a life-style change begins with small actions, (voluntarily renouncing “I want”
and grows into committed involvement and advocacy at all levels of society.
Participants evaluated the experience of COP 21 very positively and everyone especially appreciated the involvement of the French Franciscan family, with whom we shared intense moments of prayer, interchange and fraternal joy in sharing food.
The times we shared with civil organizations and representatives of other faiths also helped the delegation to become more aware of how extremely important it is to network our own resources, energies and talents for a common effort on behalf of our “common home’.
Speaking after the Angelus prayer the Sunday following COP21, Pope Francis said, “With the hope that special attention for the most vulnerable populations is guaranteed…I exhort the whole international community to proceed on the path undertaken in the name of an ever more effective solidarity.” As Franciscans, care for the most vulnerable populations is an integral part of our charism. We have already begun this work; now, at this time of worldwide transformation, in the light of the example of St. Francis, we must reflect on our own lifestyles (personal, community, and social/political) and deepen our commitment to living out our solidarity with those who are most impoverished of humanity and of the rest of creation. The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all; we are all called to be good stewards of our mother and sister Earth.
The Romans VI
 This presence began with an official delegation-s participation in the Rio +20 summit and continued with the World Social Forum in Tunis at the beginning of 2015.
Dear brothers and sisters, we have all been struck by the images of the earthquake that has devastated Ecuador, claiming numerous victims and causing incalculable damage.
We have all been praying that the Lord of Peace will help the survivors bear the terrible suffering of the loss of their loved ones and their homes and that those who have lost their life will be welcomed into His embrace.
It is also important to reach out to these peoples with concrete assistance and the CIOFS Presidency invites you to make this fraternal gesture through the Capuchin Friars of Ecuador who have made their money transfer accounts available for this end. Here are the coordinates:
Thank you in the name of our brothers and sisters in Ecuador.
On February 5, 2016, an earthquake of magnitude 6,4 hit the Taiwan Southern area. Its epicenter has been localized south-east of the town of Tainan, a town with two millions of inhabitants.
Theresa Chuang Peng Piao Ping that many of you know since she was a capitular member at last General Chapter and to whom we wrote to give her our support and prayer so answered to Tibor, our Minister General: