Secular Franciscan Order

Ordo Franciscanus Sæcularis

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Dossier prepared by Lovro Sučić OFS

Edited by Fr. Amando Trujillo Cano TOR – Translated into English by Françoise Malboeuf





                If the presence in the world is an imperative for all the faithful lay persons; it is so much more, for us secular Franciscans, a responsibility to be at the head of the builders of peace in the world, in view of the charisma, lived by Saint Francis, that we pretend to inherit. Being builders of a more fraternal world, indeed of a universal fraternity constitutes the ideal, sometimes placed in doubt even by some members of the Catholic Church, and has no alternative. A mission that we have been entrusted with by the Church, as a figure in our Rule (cf. art.14 and 19), but that must be realized « with all the men of good will » and in collaboration « with the movements that promote fraternity between all peoples » (Constitutions, art. 18).




                Without a doubt we still see today humanity bleeding, openly torn apart by hatred, by the madness of war, menaced by terrorism and the pursuit of the race towards nuclear arms. Besides, you only have to look at  Syria which is now living a hell, or to Rwanda or  Bosnia-Herzegovina, for just a few examples, where the injuries of armed conflicts in the 90's will not be healed from one day to the next. We quickly understand that peace does not happen only through the suspension of fighting and that it will never be restored until it is not set upon on these four pillars: truth, justice, charity and freedom (cf. Pacem in Terris 163).

                Moreover, apart from the forms of violence which are sometimes supposedly motivated by the love for religion and is done in the name of religion, Pope emeritus Benedict XVI identifies a second typology of new forms of violence. This one is turned against religion and is aimed « in a silent manner and therefore more dangerous » in limiting the space for freedom, to change the spiritual climate so that there is no more place for God. This form of violence does not manifest itself with arms, but with « the adoration of money, of assets and power »[1] that « reveals itself to be a counter-religion, in which man no longer counts but only personal interest does »[2].

                The world is therefore full of examples of the absence of peace. What to do then so that God may tell man that He loves the gift of peace, which represents « the fullness of life »[3] ?  This must be hard because we need, in effect, « the witness of non-armed prophets, alas the object of mockery at all times »[4].


                And precisely, does Saint Francis not quite fit perfectly the image of such a prophet?  At the start of his journey of conversion, he had to renounce the glory of a military career in order to discover the beauty of a simple life in the service of our Lord Jesus Christ. Next, according to what we read in his Life written by Thomas of Celano – and what counts here is not so much the authenticity of the story, but the message – we find him next to a pagan, the Sultan of the Saracens. With tests of injuries, blows and menaces, Francis « does not tremble ». Despite the favours and worldly gifts by which the sultan tries to distract him from his intention to live according to the gospel of Jesus Christ, Francis remains firm, steadfast, to the amazement of the sultan who listens to his « extraordinary man ». There are two attitudes of Francis in front of the sultan that must be raised. First, he follows the example of his Master in evading vengeance and responding to blows and injuries by his docility. And secondly, determined for Christ, outside of whom there is no truth, he does compromise to the age. It is precisely his authenticity that arouses the curiosity of Malik al-Kamil and that helps him open the dialogue.

                What in fact pushes Saint Francis to go to meet the « infidel »? In his manner of being, since he was molded by the love the Crucified Christ, Francis cannot remain indifferent towards any man. He searches for the common good, that is, the salvation of all. If we cannot always support the salvation of man, we can at least commit ourselves to « creating the conditions of dignified life » for all and to work for the freedom of all peoples. » (Constitutions, art. 18)


                In searching for concrete examples of the commitment for peace that can serve us as indicators today (on Giorgio La Pira, see January dossier), we only need to stop at the unique event that took place at Assisi on October 27th 1986. Evidently, in view of the heritage of Saint Francis, artisan of Peace, Assisi was the logic choice and the ideal decor for this historic encounter.

                His Eminence Reverend Cardinal Roger Etchegaray gives it a beautiful testimony: « When, at the of a grey morning, a rainbow appeared in the sky of Assisi, the assembled religious leaders through the prophetic audacity of one of them John Paul II, they saw a pressing appeal for fraternal life: no one could no longer doubt that the prayer had provoked this visible sign of the connivance between God and the descendants de Noah. »[5] There were 70 representatives from the principal religions of the world, pushed « to be together to pray but not to pray together » in order to « give witness before the world (...) to the transcendent nature of peace », according to the words of the blessed pope. It was in effect the putting in place of the officially resumed theory in the text of the declaration Nostra Aetate  of the Vatican II Council condemning all sorts of discrimination by calling for universal fraternity and for the commandment of charity (1 Jn 4:8). The mystery of the unity of the human family, saved by the sacrifice of Jesus, lived in this extraordinary movement that he will christen under the name of « Spirit of Assisi », will carry the blessed pope John-Paul II to conclude that: « The differences are a less important element in relation to the unity that, to the contrary, is radical, fundamental and determining »[6]. In his speech at Assisi, the mention of the moral conscience found a central place since it was in common to all and « we are enjoined to respect, protect, and to promote human life, from the maternal womb to the death bed » and « to overcome selfishness, greed and the spirit of vengeance »[7]. In his anthropology it is « the conscience that teaches us to look for the truth, to love and serve all persons and all peoples, and consequently to make peace. »[8]


                Twenty five years later, on October 27th 2011, representatives of the religious communities, but, this time as well, representatives of non-believers, found themselves in the same place following the invitation from Pope Benedict XVI. We can read in this gesture a pressing call,  often passing under the denomination of « new evangelization », to go to a gathering of all those who search for the truth and who are capable of becoming builders of a more fraternal world and to institute a sincere and fraternal dialogue with them.

                We must also say that the fruits of the seed planted during this encounter at Assisi in 1986 are today countless. Everywhere in the world Franciscans organize annual meetings in the spirit of Assisi and these are sometimes exceptional occasions to meet and to dialogue for those who take part.

                Fortunately, the knowledge stemming from these meetings sometimes deepens and allows us to work together in our social lives in the interest of the common good. Then it is not rare that in Croatia, for example, Catholics, Muslims and Orthodox together make their voice heard against the menace of the privatization of the access to water, which is definitely a common good, or against the imposition of the type of ideology in the school system. The recent events are a good witness to this: all the great religious communities have supported the popular initiative for a referendum aimed at defining in the text of the Constitution the marriage as a union of life of one woman and one man, which has contributed in an important way to the success of the initiative (in 15 days we have succeeded in collecting the signatures of 20 % of the citizens).


                « The World Days of Peace are the celebrations of a particular intensity for the prayer of invocation for peace and the commitment to building a world of peace. Pope Paul VI instituted them in order to « devote to the intentions and resolutions for Peace a particular celebration on the first day of the civil year ». The pontifical Messages for this annual occasion constitute a rich source of aggiornamento and to the development of the social doctrine and to underline the constant pastoral action of the Church in favor of peace (...) »[9] Thanks to the World Days of Peace we now have at our disposal a large series of teachings that would deserve without a doubt to be studied and put into practice by our fraternities.


  • John XXIII, Encyclical Letter Pacem in Terris

  • Vatican II Council, Declaration on the relations of the Church with non-Christian religions Nostra Aetate:

  • Card. Roger Etchegaray, «The Spirit of Assisi»

  • Intervention of Pope Benedict XVI during a Day of Reflection, dialogue and prayer for peace and justice in the world "Pilgrims for truth, pilgrims for peace", October  27 2011


1)      Am I confident « in the presence of the divine seed » in my brother /my sister in the fraternity to whom I do not speak and « in the transforming power of love and forgiveness » (cf. Rule, art. 19)?

2)      In order to contribute to the peace and the common good, as Christians we are called to cooperate « with all men of good will » and « with the movements that promote fraternity among peoples ». Who are these men and these movements of good faith in our entourage within: a) the Franciscan Family; b) the Catholic Church; c) the other Churches and Christian ecclesial communities; d) the other religious communities; e) the non-believers?

3)     At the famous meeting at Assisi in 1986, Blessed John-Paul II declared: « Although prayer is in itself an action, this does not dispense us from working for peace. » Can our celebrations of the spirit of Assisi go beyond a prayer meeting? What will our contribution be in the creation of conditions of dignified life for our relations?

4)     How can we maintain the dialogue with one another and at the same time remain faithful to Christ, who is our Truth (cf. Jn 14:6), and to the teachings of our Catholic Church, in the example of Saint Francis who never compromised with the world?

5)     Have we as a fraternity compassion for the people who suffer from war? Our brothers and sisters in Syria, what do they become?


[1] Intervention of Pope Benedict XVI during the Day of Reflection, Dialogue and Prayer for Peace and Justice in the world "Pilgrims of truth, pilgrims of peace", October 27th  2011

[2] Ibid.

[3] Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 489

[4] Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 496

[5] Card. Roger Etchegaray, «The Spirit of Assisi»

[6] Ibid.

[7] Speech of John-Paul II to the representatives of Christian Churches and ecclesiastic communities and the religions of the world assembled at Assisi, Basilica of Saint Francis, October 27th  1986

[8] Ibid.

[9] Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 520