Friday, June 05, 2009

Franciscans re-elect minister general to a second six-year term

by Catholic News Service

ASSISI, Italy (CNS) -- Spanish Father Jose Rodriguez Carballo was re-elected to head the Franciscan order during a general chapter May 24-June 20 in Assisi, Italy, the birthplace of St. Francis.

Father Carballo, 55, was elected to a second six-year term as minister general of the Order of Friars Minor June 4. Some 152 representatives of the order reconfirmed the Spanish friar during the Assisi meeting as the leader of the 15,000 Franciscans who live in 113 countries.

Father Carballo is the 119th successor of St. Francis and will lead the Order of the Friars Minor until 2015.

The delegates will celebrate the 800th anniversary of the founding of their order June 9.

Father Carballo told reporters at the end of May that during the general chapter the delegates were looking at how well the order has met the priorities set in 2003 for deepening spirituality, improving fraternal life and living as poor among the poor and in solidarity with all those in need.

Second, he said, they would try to find new ways to meet the challenge of being missionaries in the modern world.

Father Carballo said, "Even if numerically our order is diminishing, that does not mean we are not opening new mission," including ones in Sudan and Myanmar.

In 1930, the Franciscan Friars Minor numbered 22,000, according to OFM figures. As of Dec. 31, 2008, the number had declined to 14,724.

However, like many of the church's oldest religious orders, the Franciscans are growing in Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe, holding steady in Latin America, and declining in Western Europe and North America.

Father Carballo has been minister general since 2003. He had been a member of the Franciscans' governing board and the head of the section in charge of formation and studies. Before that he served as minister of the Franciscan province of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, as president of the Union of Friars Minor in Europe and as formation director for young religious.

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