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Franciscan fraternity: rescript enables non-ordained brothers to be elected superiors

For decades, some branches of the Franciscan Order have been working towards restablishing the order’s original sense of fraternity.

In a rescript to Canon Law in May, Pope Francis responded to the request for greater equality between ordained and non-ordained members of religious institutions.

Minister General, Order of the Friars Minor

Pope Francis responded to the explicit desire and request of various religious institutes, which was to restore the charismatic character to religious life. Therefore, clerical brothers, us priests, and non-clerical brothers, the laity, have the same rights and duties. Our order, like others, has for centuries had priestly brothers and non-ordained brothers living and working together, without distinction.

This request was one of unity and fraternity as it brought the leaders of four branches of the Franciscan family together: the Friars Minor, the Capuchins, the Conventual Franciscans, and the Third Order Regulars.

Minister General, Order of the Friars Minor

We see how in the beginning of our family, there was no such distinction. We had St. Francis. He was not a priest. Even the general after him, Brother Elias.We were born as families where in the first place, we are all brothers, professing the same rule and that is what unites us and what allows us to do everything in fraternity.

But all of us, including some other institutions, wanted to find the original characteristic of religious life that is a big part of who we are.

This rescript does not change Canon Law, rather, in individual cases, it allows non-ordained members to be appointed as local or major superiors of their religious order.

Minister General, Order of the Friars Minor

The rescript will help us better recognize that we are really a fraternity of equals and we have a common title. And what unites us is, for us Franciscans for example, the profession of the Franciscan rule. This text behind me is what unites us. That makes us Friars Minor and religious. Some of us are called to serve the Church and the people of God as priests, but others are not. However, what unites us is being brothers.

For Fr. Fusarelli, recognizing that there is equality among religious brothers is not only beneficial for religious life, but for the fraternal nature of the entire Church.

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