Franciscans Going "Home" for 800th Birthday

Will Commemorate Meeting Called by St. Francis

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ROME, APRIL 8, 2009 (Zenit.org).- More than 2,000 Franciscans will gather in Assisi next week, marking 800 years since the approval of St. Francis' Rule, as well as the first international general chapter the founder called.



The April 15-18 meeting was presented Tuesday at Vatican Radio by the minister-general of the Order of Friars Minor, Father José Rodríguez Carballo.
    
The chapter will mark Pope Innocent III's approval of the Rule of St. Francis in April 1209. It also will point to the first general chapter of the Franciscans, called by Francis in 1221, five years before his death. That meeting gathered 5,000 friars and came to be known as the chapter of the "mats"; due to a lack of beds, the friars slept on mats on the floor.

"This chapter of the mats will be an intense moment of witness to the world as fraternity and reflection on the fundamental topics of our life," explained Father Rodríguez Carballo.
 
The delegates will meet in Assisi and later in Rome, in representation of the 35,000 Franciscan friars of four denominations present in 65 countries.
 
An April 18 audience with Benedict XVI will bring the chapter to a close.

During the three days, the Franciscans plan to reflect on hospitality, witness, the meaning of penance and fasting, and gratitude.

Father Rodríguez Carballo also noted that time will be spent reflecting on the missionary commitment, given that the Franciscans are the first missionary order: "St. Francis is the first founder who wrote in his rule a chapter for missions in Christian lands, but he is also the first to write a chapter for the 'missio ad gentes,' for those who went among the Saracens and other non-Christians.
 
"We have always been on the frontier of evangelization and this will be our commitment also for the future. The world is our cloister."
 
Those unable to attend the chapter will be able to follow it live on the Internet at TeleRadio Padre Pio.

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