The four-year-long ‘Way of the Cross’ of the traditionalist-friendly Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate may conclude as soon as Easter, according to Vatican reporter Marco Tossati.
Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect for the Congregation for
Institutes of Consecrated Life and Religious, and his Secretary, José
Rodríguez Carballo, want to close the painful chapter in the life of one
of the most traditionally minded reform orders of the Church today.
What began as an inquiry into the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate
(FFI) in July 2013 when the Vatican named Capuchin Father Fidenio Volpi
as commissioner turned quickly into a complete dismantling of the
The Vatican never brought forward clear allegations, but it was
evident that the Franciscans in the Vatican’s Congregation conspired
with liberal members of the FFI itself in order to clean the order of
all links to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.
The seminary was
closed and the brothers dispersed. A majority of the brothers left and
found refuge in the Philippines where they were incardinated.
Vatican’s commissar, Fidenzio Volpi, died in 2015 from a stroke and was
replaced by Sabino Ardito.
Allegations of fraud against the founder, Fr.
Stefano Maria Manelli, were settled by an Italian civil court and
Manelli was proven innocent. Yet the order suffered greatly.
Now the Vatican commissioners for the male branch of the Franciscans,
the Salesian priest Sabino Ardito, the Capuchin Carlo Calloni, and the
Jesuit Gianfranco Ghirlanda – who is also a member of commission
investigating the Knights of Malta – will draft new constitutions of the
claims this will happen even before Easter or at least by September. It
may very well the case that these will contain the abolition of the vow
of unlimited consecration to the Immaculate Mother of God, or its
obligatory character. This would imply a strong refutation of the
principle characteristic of the identity of the order, which was
inspired by St. Maximilian Kolbe.
The FFI was one of the most flourishing examples of Franciscan
spirituality, with countless vocations and an exemplary poverty in the
spirit of St. Francis.
The female branch, the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate, have been under investigative visitation
by Cardinal Braz de Aviz since 2014.
Sister Fernanda Barbiero of the
Institute of the Sisters of St. Dorothy, an “up-to-date” nun with
moderately feminist tendencies, was nominated commissioner over the
order; she was succeeded by Sister Noris Adriana Calzavara from the
Sisters of the Rosary.