On Saturday, October 22, 2022, many members of the public association “Communità Frontiera” [Frontier Community] were received in audience by Pope Francis in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace. Communità Frontiera was founded twenty years ago by Friar Giuseppe DE STEFANO, OFM Conv., of the Province of St. Nicholas and St. Angelo in Italy (Puglia).
Many young people were present, along with their teachers and friends. Others attending included our Archbishop confreres who in various ways guided Friar Giuseppe and his activities: Friar Marco TASCA, Archbishop of Genoa, Italy; Friar Roberto CARBONI, Archbishop of Oristano, Italy; and Friar Cesar ESSAYAN, Bishop of Beirut, Lebanon. Also present were some friars from Sicily and Puglia.
The youth and children came from the “City of Young People” residence at the headquarters of Communità Frontiera, located in Mola di Bari, Italy.
Friar Gaspare LA BARBERA, the Minister Provincial of the Province of St. Agatha and St. Lucy in Italy (Sicily) and President of the Federazione Inter-mediterranea Ministri Provinciali (FIMP), greeted the Supreme Pontiff and mentioned that Friar Giuseppe, the founder of Communità Frontiera, had a “call within the Franciscan call” that “sent him to constitute this new experience of community life.” Communità Frontiera was born after a long discernment about going out into the streets, into the schools, and into those empty spaces inhabited by the death merchants of organized crime.
Communità Frontiera was founded in the Diocese of Piazza Armerina in the town of Pietraperzia, Italy. The Most Reverend Michele PENNISI, then Bishop of Piazza Armerina, recognized the group’s founding charism by approving it as a private association of the faithful. In 2019, it was made a public association of the faithful and granted affiliation to the Order of Friars Minor Conventual by the current Bishop of Piazza Armerina, the Most Reverend Rosario GISANA, who was also present at the audience.
In 2007, the Most Reverend Francesco CACUCCI, then Archbishop of Bari-Bitonto, Italy, welcomed the Communità Frontiera to his Archdiocese, which inspired Friar Giuseppe to found the “City of Young People.” It was inaugurated on September 15, 2011, using family homes and a day center. The “City of Young People” is now a “field hospital” that heals the inner wounds of young people torn by social and family strife.
“‘Frontiera’ is the style of Jesus Christ, who despite being God, came to encounter us, lost sheep, lost and without hope,” said Pope Francis in his speech. He mentioned that there were two charisms at work: that of St. Francis of Assisi and that of Blessed Giuseppe PUGLISI. The Pope continued: “‘Frontiera’ is the style of Francis who, like Jesus, strips himself of his riches and becomes a beggar, allowing him to share the condition of the ‘little ones,’ the least, who beg for bread but also and above all for love.”
During the closing moments of the audience, the Pontiff’s smile was evident as he greeted the children and young people one by one, and later, took a group photo with them.
Friar Maurizio DI PAOLO, Procurator General
Photo: © Vatican Media