Visit of the Minister General to the Province of the Assumption of the BVM

In fulfillment of the mandate of the 1997 General Chapter (Quaestiones Votatae 108 and 109; cf. Acta Capituli Generalis 1997, p.433) which directed the immediate and total implementation of the Decree "Romanis Pontificibus" of Paul VI (1975), the Minister General, Brother Giacomo Bini, visited Mostar from December 12 to 14, 1998. He was accompanied by the Vicar General, Brother Stefano Ottenbreit, and by the Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the Most Revd. Archbishop Marcello Zago, OMI.

The meetings held during their visit were many, and at various levels. Firstly they met the Provincial Definitory. Afterwards the Minister General and Vicar General had a meeting with the friars of the Province which was well attended, given that many had to meet pastoral commitments (it was the Third Sunday of Advent). In a prayerful atmosphere, the Minister General conducted a reflection which he based on the 'Little Testament' of Siena. He lingered in particular on the three earnest exhortations of the dying Francis to his brothers: let them always love one another (Fraternity); let them love and always be faithful to our lady holy Poverty (Poverty); let them always be loyal and submissive to the prelates and all the clerics of holy mother Church (Obedience). This meeting continued into the afternoon, when Archbishop Zago also took part.

On the morning of December 13, the Secretary of the Congregation met with the Mostar diocesan clergy, while the Vicar General, Brother Stefano, met with the Franciscan parish priests of those parishes which are to be handed over to the Bishop (i.e. Blagaj, Jablanca, Ploce, Nevesinje, Crnac, Grude, Mostarski Gradac).

Afterwards, there was an important meeting at the diocesan curia of Mostar. The participants were: the co-executors of the Decree "Romanis Pontificibus", Bishop Ratko Peric of Mostar and Brother Giacomo Bini, Minister General; Archbishop Marcello Zago, Secretary of the Congregation; the Chargé d'Affaires of the Apostolic Nuntiature; Brother Stefano Ottenbreit, Vicar General; Brother Tomislav Pervan, Minister Provincial, and Brother Marinko Leko, Vicar Provincial.

A final discussion took place between the Bishop, the Minister General, the Secretary of the Congregation, the Chargé d'Affaires of the Nuntiature and the OFM parish priests. At this meeting a final communiqué was drawn up and signed. It synthesizes the outcome of the series of meetings and reaffirms a common commitment to realizing the handover of the parishes listed in the Decree.

This final communiqué says:

During our conversations the question of the transfer to the diocesan clergy of the parishes indicated in the Decree was decisively and finally dealt with: both parties committed themselves to enact the transfer in accordance with the laws of the Church, the decisions of the Minister General and his Definitory and those of the Provincial Definitory.

The Holy See and the Order intend to keep informed regarding the progress of the transfer. Any friars who disobey should know that they incur the penalties envisaged in the laws of the Church and of the Order. It is our earnest desire that the Decree be implemented in full for the good of the Church, of the Diocese, of the Franciscan Province of Mostar, and above all for the good of the faithful.

We remind the Christian faithful that sacraments received from friars who have been punished are invalid.

It is important that all, priests and faithful alike, see in the local Bishop, who acts in union with the diocesan and religious Presbyterate, the centre and reference-point of the ecclesial life of the diocese.

A special appeal was made to all members of the diocesan community, which has always proved faithful to the Catholic Church, that in a spirit of fraternal ecclesial communion with each other they follow the teachings of the Holy Father, of the Holy See and of the authorities established by them, and thus ensure the human and spiritual growth of this local Church which the Pope loves and closely follows.

Mostar, 14 December 1998

+ Marcello Zago
Secretary of the Congregation For the Evangelization of Peoples

+ Ratko Peric
Bishop of Mostar - Duvno

Brother Giacomo Bini
Minister General OFM