Rome, July 14, 2024 

Dear confreres,
On July 14, 2004, the first General Custos in Russia, Friar Gregory CIOROCH, lost his life in Belarus while returning from Poland to Moscow. He was forty-two years old. Today marks the 20th anniversary of that sad event. This anniversary is an opportunity to commemorate this wonderful man and to give thanks to God for the gift of our confrere. It is also an opportunity to express, once again, our gratitude to Friar Gregory for his service and total dedication to God and the Order.
Many of you knew him personally and some of you studied with him in Rome. For younger friars, however, this is an opportunity to learn about this heroic friar.
After receiving his doctorate in Rome in 1993, Friar Gregory began to minister in Russia. In 2001, he was elected the first Superior of the Russian General Custody of St. Francis of Assisi.
It was he and his heroic confreres, who, after centuries, rebuilt the structures of our Order in Russia and founded the Franciscan Publishing House, where they began to publish the Russian Catholic Encyclopedia.
The friars recognized Friar Gregory as a good man, someone who was able to understand others and help them in a real way. They saw him as a Christian example of faith; as a man who did not forget to pray and live the Word of God. As a Superior, he was the one who washed the feet of the friars; he was an example of Franciscan faith and poverty.
Friar Gregory was a charismatic man with a prophetic vision. Thus, he was not always fully understood by all.
Due to certain pastoral choices and approaches, he and his brothers had to overcome many difficulties, reproaches and even provocations. He was aware of this, but it did not discourage him or stop his apostolic zeal. With touching sincerity he confessed, “All these years I have been working like a madman for the Order and the Church in Russia and I would like to continue to do so, with simplicity, in the future” (July 28, 2003).
A little more than a month before his death, he wrote to the then Superior of the Order: “Dear Minister General, for various reasons, our Custody has suffered a lot in the last term. However, we are sure that the Holy Spirit will safely guide our steps. In the end, I must confide in you that I feel like a happy man, a happy friar and a happy priest. I thank God for all the wonderful things He has given me in Russia, especially the gift of the friars, who do not just talk about Francis but live like him. I think many may develop a holy envy of the gifts the Lord has given us. May the Lord bless you and may the Holy Spirit guide your thoughts. My life and the Custody I confidently hand over to the Holy Spirit and the Holy Mother of God” (June 4, 2004). These were his final words. We can consider them as his spiritual testament.
We entrust this zealous apostle to God’s mercy. He was a worker in the Lord’s vineyard, a spiritual guide and a brother.
We believe that Friar Gregory intercedes with God, especially for Russia, a country he cherished. May he intercede for our confreres working there, that they may always have the courage and strength to bear witness to the Gospel.
May the Lord grant you peace.

Friar Carlos A. TROVARELLI
Minister General