On March 6, 2021, two witnesses of Charity and the Word returned to the Father’s House on the same day. One was Friar Giorgio ABRAM, the tireless “apostle of lepers” in Ghana, Vietnam and the world. The other was Friar Gianfranco GRIECO, who made communication his lifestyle, serving for thirty-seven years at L’Osservatore Romano [the Vatican’s daily newspaper] and being sent on 274 trips with Pope St. John Paul II.
Friar Giorgio was born in Ronzone, Italy, on February 4, 1944. He completed his studies in Camposampiero, Italy, made his solemn profession on October 4, 1965 and was ordained to the priesthood in Padua on March 21, 1970. He spent the first years of his priesthood serving in Padua and Rome. In 1977, he was sent forth as a missionary and spent the next forty-four years carrying out intensive pastoral ministry in various communities of the Provincial Custody of St. Anthony of Padua in Ghana, of the Italian Province of St. Anthony of Padua (Northern Italy).
Friar Giorgio’s specific apostolate was helping leprosy patients. He gave everything he had to this effort, becoming a true pioneer in eradicating this serious disease in Ghana. Through his research and study programs he collaborated with various world associations and proposed effective and innovative methods and procedures. Suffice it to say that in the 1980s there were 50,000 leprosy patients in Ghana. By 2019, there were only 500.
Friar Giorgio collaborated with the World Health Organization (WHO) and was awarded honors by the government of Ghana and various prestigious non-governmental organizations. In 2005, the Order sent him to Vietnam to direct and reorganize our leper hospital in Văn Môn. On his arrival, there were initially 800 leprosy patients. Today, that number is almost halved.
Friar Giorgio recently attended the funeral of his brother, Friar Giuliano, in Italy. When he returned to Ghana, he entered a period of quarantine. During that time, he was unfortunately struck by Covid-19. He was admitted to an intensive care unit where he died from cardiac arrest.
Friar Gianfranco was born in Barile, Italy, on May 7, 1943. He completed his studies at the seminaries in Ravello, Nocera Inferiore and Portici, Italy. After his novitiate year in Assisi, he studied philosophy and theology at the Pontifical Theological Faculty of St. Bonaventure (Seraphicum) in Rome. He made his solemn profession on October 4, 1965, and was ordained to the priesthood on December 21, 1967. In 1968, he was sent to the University of Friborg, Switzerland, where he earned a doctorate in theology and a degree in journalism.
In 1970 he was initially hired as an editor at the Vatican’s Osservatore Romano newspaper and later became its Office Manager. Since 1978, he served as a special envoy covering the travels of Pope St. John Paul II in Italy and around the world. Since 1975, he served as a chaplain at the Regina Coeli prison in Rome and was a staff member at Rome’s San Dorotea Parish Church. He produced numerous biographies of saints, in particular, Pope St. Paul VI, Pope St. John Paul II and St. Maximilian M. Kolbe. He collaborated with various magazines of the Order and the Church, particularly with “St. Francis Patron of Italy” and “The Franciscan Missionary”.
In 2007, he was appointed the Office Manager for the Pontifical Council for the Family and organized two major world gatherings on the family, one in Milan and the other in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. At the age of seventy, he completed his service at the Vatican and continued to work as an associate pastor at San Dorotea. In November of 2020, he was diagnosed with an incurable illness; he died accepting the disease and invoking the protection of St. John Paul II and St. Maximilian Kolbe. Friar Gianfranco’s funeral was held Tuesday, March 10, at the Parish Church of Saints Peter and Paul in Rome’s EUR District. The funeral Mass was presided over by the Most Reverend Piero MARINI, Titular Archbishop of Martirano. Others present included His Eminence Konrad Cardinal KRAJEWSKI, Almoner of the Office of Papal Charities; five bishops; Friar Franco BUONAMANO, Minister Provincial of the Italian Province of St. Francis of Assisi (Central Italy); Friar Cosimo ANTONINO, Minister Provincial of the Province of the Seraphic Father St. Francis in Italy (Naples); around forty priests and religious; various relatives; and many friends and journalists.
Friar Paolo FIASCONARO, Director of the Franciscan Missionary Center of the FIMP Federation