(October 26, 2020)

Dear friars,
I am writing this letter to you a few days after my return to Padua. I had been visiting our confreres for a couple of weeks in the Delegation in Portugal. I am writing to tell you about the joyful and unexpected news that reached us yesterday, Sunday, October 25, 2020. The Pope, at the conclusion of the Angelus, declared the appointment of thirteen new cardinals. What a thrill it was to hear the name of our brother Friar Mauro GAMBETTI among those announced by the Pontiff!

We were stunned. Many of us thought Friar Mauro would be ordained a bishop, considering his skills and the excellent service he performed in our Province (then the Province of Bologna) and later in Assisi, where he has been serving as the Custos of the Sacred Convent since February of 2013. However, we never imagined he would be made a cardinal—at least not so soon—and yet here we are, grappling with this happy news. His appointment fills us with joy and makes us feel proud of our family of Friars Minor Conventual, a family which is particularly appreciated in this era of the Universal Church. Moreover, what an honor it is for our religious Province, after being surprised by the episcopal appointment of Marco TASCA as the Archbishop of Genoa, to now see another member of the Province elevated to such a high ecclesiastical office!

This appointment has even more impact when we consider that there has not been a Conventual Franciscan elected cardinal since the consistory of September 27, 1861. That was when our Sicilian confrere, Friar Antonio Maria PANEBIANCO (1808-1885) was created Cardinal-Priest of San Girolamo dei Croati, and later appointed Cardinal-Priest of Santi XII Apostoli. He also served as the Prefect of the Congregation for Indulgences and Relics, the Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Secretary of the Congregation for Universal Inquisition and the Camerlengo of the Sacred College of Cardinals. One hundred and fifty-nine years have passed since then, encompassing the entire history of Italy since the year of its unification!

I would like Friar Mauro’s appointment to the College of Cardinals to be a reason for us all to thank the Lord, He who blesses us with the richness of his gifts. Moreover, I also would like us to remember Friar Mauro in our prayers, asking that he may always serve Holy Mother Church with love and full dedication.

There are some among us who look at these ecclesiastical appointments and think that our Order is losing valuable friars. While I can understand their point of view, since these brothers physically leave our fraternity, I am nevertheless convinced that these confreres become a valuable gift for the whole Church and also for us, who are part of the Church.
May this event encourage us to renew our desire to respond faithfully to our vocation.


Vicar Provincial of the Italian Province of St. Anthony of Padua