Provincial of local Franciscans meets Pope Francis
Father Jeff Scheeler, provincial minister for the Franciscan Friars headquartered in Cincinnati, was one of more than 150 leaders of the Orders of Friars Minor who gathered in Assisi, Italy in May for the order’s month-long general chapter. Many of the leaders took time out to visit Rome and meet with Pope Francis.
On May 26, Father Scheeler and others attended a noon audience in the apostolic palace. Pope Francis urged Franciscan friars to hold true to their charism of fraternity, humility and poverty and not lose the respect they have earned over the centuries for living up to those ideals. When Father Scheeler met the Holy Father, he expressed his thanks.
“Thank you, Holy Father, for the hope that you give us,” Father Scheeler told the pontiff.
The chapter also included discussion about the financial situation of the Franciscan headquarters in Rome, as well as financial activity and oversight in every Franciscan community worldwide. An investigation of the headquarters’ accounting records found that ineffective budgetary oversight and “questionable” financial activities had sunk the headquarters into significant debt and an extremely serious financial situation.
U.S. Franciscan Father Michael Perry, who was re-elected head of the order May 21, told the pope that the Franciscans strive to proclaim the joy of the Gospel and be a force for peace and justice in the world.
“Sometimes, however, our life’s witness may waver, making us not very credible. As you well know, Holy Father, our adherence to the charism of minority and poverty was lacking recently,” he said.
Setting aside his prepared text, Pope Francis told the delegates how much “the people of God love you.”
He recalled how the late Cardinal Antonio Quarracino of Buenos Aires, his predecessor before he became archbishop in 1998, used to tell him how respected Franciscans were even by those with strong anti-clerical feelings.
“In cities there are groups or individuals who are a bit ‘priest-bashers.’ When a priest walks by they say things, like ‘crow’ — this is what they say in Argentina,” he said, meaning someone unscrupulous or heartless.
“They throw insults, not bad, but they say something, but never ever, Quarracino would tell me, do they say something to someone in a Franciscan habit. Why?
“Because you have inherited good standing in the people of God with this minority, with fraternity, with meekness, with humility, with poverty. Please preserve this; do not lose it. The people care about you, they love you.”
The Franciscans hold their general chapter every six years to assess the state of the order and set a course for the following six years.
Posted June 3, 2015
The Catholic News Service contributed to this report.