Rome (Agenzia Fides) - 1,460 Friars Minor are present in Asia and Oceania and they carry out a valuable work of evangelical witness of life and service to the poor, "a sign to awaken hope", says OFM Minister General, Friar Michael Perry.
As reported to Fides by the General Curia OFM, currently there are 13,507 Friars Minor in the world and are present in 119 countries, distributed as follows: 1,221 in Africa and the Middle East; 3,279 in Latin America; 1,241 in North America; 1,467 in Asia and Oceania; 3,862 in Western Europe, while 2,437 in Eastern Europe. The universal fraternity is structured in 98 Provinces and Autonomous Custodies; 8 entities dependent on the Minister General; 19 Custodies dependent on the Provinces; 14 Conferences of Ministers Provincial and three Unions of Conferences (Asia /Oceania, Latin America, Europe).
The Franciscan presence in Asia is rooted in missions accomplished already 800 years: missionary explorations in East Asia started in the middle of the thirteenth century thanks to the Franciscans. Giovanni di Pian del Carpine, sent by Pope Innocent IV in 1245 visited the Mongolian capital of Karakorum.
The other Franciscan William of Rubrouck, left in 1252, he visited the Mongolian kingdom in southern Russia, and went even further to the East, to the court of the Great Khan. In 1286 it was the turn of another friar minor, Giovanni of Montecorvino, who founded in Beijing in 1307, with the support of Pope Clement V, the first diocese, two centuries before the arrival of the first Jesuit missionaries. In the Near East, in addition, the mission of the Franciscans was marked by key initiatives such as the foundation of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, in the first half of 1300. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 08/06/2015)