On September 20-28, 2019, Friar Giovanni VOLTAN, the new Assistant General for the Federazione Inter-mediterranea Ministri Provinciali (FIMP), made his first visit to the Provincial Custody of the Orient and the Holy Land. The Custody has four friaries, two in Lebanon and two in Turkey.
The Assistant General’s arrival in Beirut coincided with the conclusion of a spiritual retreat for all the friars of the Custody. The retreat was led by Friar Tomasz SZYMCZAK, the Secretary General of the Order.
At the Sin El Fil friary in Beirut, Lebanon, the Assistant General had a nice meeting with a real “Cedar of Lebanon” Friar Massimiliano CHILIN. Friar Massimiliano originates from Padua, Italy. He is ninety-three years old, and has spent 53 of those years in the Custody. He is a living record of the Order’s presence in the country. Alongside Friar Massimiliano, was one of his first disciples, the eighty-year-old Friar Jalil HADAYA, from the Syriac-Catholic Church. Also present was the young Friar Roger KOUYOUMDJI. Friar Roger serves as the Custodial Vicar and a Pastor. He is a native of Lebanon. Others attending included the Guardian, Friar Felician TAMAŞ and Friar Gheorghe-Vasile TAMAŞ, both from Romania. Together, the five friars animate the lively Christian community of Sin El Fil. This location has many links with St. Anthony of Padua, its patron saint. There are several ongoing pastoral and cultural initiatives here.
In Beirut, the Assistant General met with our confrere, the Most Reverend César ESSAYAN, Vicar Apostolic of Beirut, Lebanon. In Zahle, Lebanon, the Assistant General visited the Friary of St. Francis of Assisi, erected in 2010, as the second friary in Lebanon. The community is comprised of the Guardian, Friar Iosif-Florin PETRILA, from Romania; the Vicar and Pastor, Friar Elias Paul MARSWANIAN; and Friar Khalil EL KHOURY, both from Lebanon. The primary ministry of these friars is being a humble presence in a predominantly Muslim area with very few parishioners or Christians. The friars carry out charitable social work to benefit refugees and the very poor. This work has been made possible by generous contributions from Caritas Antoniana. Near the friary is the St. Clare hermitage, which was a gift from a benefactor. The space is used to offer spiritual retreats connected with our charism.
At the Saint Anthony of Padua Friary in Istanbul, Turkey, Friar Giovanni met with the local fraternity, which includes the Custos, Friar Anton BULAI; the Guardian, Friar Iulian PIŞTA; the Pastor, Friar Iosif ROBU (all from the Province of Romania); Friar Michał SABATURA; and Friar Andrzej DYLEWSKI (from the Province of Warsaw). Together with the Custos, the Assistant General visited a home for the elderly run by an institute of nuns. For some months now, the sisters have been caring for another member of the fraternity, Friar Luigi IANNITTO, aged ninety-eight, from Abruzzo, Italy.
In Büyükdere, Turkey, the Assistant General visited the Friary of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, comprised of the Guardian, Friar Martin KMETEC, from Slovenia; the Custodial Secretary, Friar Lucian ABALINTOAIEI; and Friar Mihăiţă HERCIU a member of the Turkish Bishops’ Conference, (both from Romania). The friars are currently serving a few faithful at our church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They also take part in cultural animation, providing translations, printing, and dissemination.
We thank all the friars of the Custody for their fraternal welcome. They are succeeding in earning the appreciation of the people through their presence and service in this part of the world—this Land of the Orient—where Francis, a pilgrim of peace, met the Sultan 800 years ago.
Friar Giovanni VOLTAN Assistant General for the FIMP