On October 14, 2022, the Municipality of Montignoso, in the Italian Province of Massa-Carrara, honored Friar Vincenzo COLI (1938-2018), four years after his death. Friar Vincenzo was an illustrious fellow citizen, an extraordinary spiritual figure and a profound interpreter of the Franciscan spirit. For seventeen years, he held the position of General Guardian of the Sacred Convent of St. Francis in Assisi.
In 1973, Friar Vincenzo was elected the Minister Provincial of what was then the Province of the Sacred Stigmata in Tuscany, Italy. In 1981, he became the Guardian of the Sacred Convent in Assisi.
Friar Vincenzo was a friar of extraordinary human sensitivity, refined humor, and a lively and witty temperament. He listened to everyone and welcomed them. He was open to dialogue and discussion and was particularly gifted as a communicator.
During his first term as the Custos of Assisi, Friar Vincenzo was on hand for the first historic interreligious meeting ordered by St. Pope John Paul II, which took place on October 27, 1986. At this event, representatives of the various religions of the world met together to pray for universal peace. Friar Vincenzo welcomed many notable personalities to Assisi. Among them, on October 8, 1983, was Enrico BERLINGUER, the Secretary of the Italian Communist Party and on February 14, 2002, Tareq AZIZ, the right-hand man to Saddam HUSSEIN.
In 1989, Friar Vincenzo was appointed the Assistant General for what was then the Conferenza Inter-mediterranea Ministri Provinciali (CIMP [now FIMP]) and in 2001, he was re-elected as the Custos of the Sacred Convent during the difficult years of reconstruction after the 1997 earthquake. In 2009, he went back to his native religious Province. In November of 2017, he returned to “his” Assisi and was lovingly welcomed by the Sacred Convent community. On June 19, 2018, his earthly life ended at the hospital in Foligno, Italy.
One of his greatest gifts was his unmistakably clever humor; he had the gift of always having a joke ready, even during really difficult situations. Friar Vincenzo’s art of communicating was done through humor: he bridged gaps, smoothed out conflicts and brought people together. To him, God was smiling, so as he prayed, he would smile, too. In this smiling familiarity, he learned to smile back at God and to smile lovingly at his fellow human beings and every other creature.
This commemorative event took place at the Villa Schiff in Montignoso, Italy. The speakers included: Gianni LORENZETTI, Mayor of Montignoso; Valter STOPPINI, Deputy Mayor of Assisi; the Most Reverend Guido APREA, Prefect of Massa-Carrara; the Most Reverend Mario VACCARI, OFM, Bishop of Massa Carrara-Pontremoli, Italy, Friar Silvestro BEJAN (from 2001 to 2009, Secretary of the Sacred Convent), Friar Marco MORONI, the Custos of the Sacred Convent; Paolo CONVERSI, a professor at the Pontifical Gregorian University and the Pontifical Lateran University; and some relatives of Friar Vincenzo.
Friar Silvestro, who knew Friar Vincenzo well, concluded his testimony saying: “For Friar Vincenzo, being the Custos of the Sacred Convent was a great opportunity to serve God, man and creation. He was a true witness of peace and dialogue between different cultures and religions.”
Friar Silvestro Bejan