THE FRIAR MINOR, CALLED TO BE A MAN OF DIALOGUE To the Friars of the “Fraternity for Dialogue” of Istanbul (Istanbul 29th February 2004) Br. José Rodríguez Carballo, ofm Minister General Dear Brothers of the International Fraternity of Istanbul: May the Lord give you Peace! It is with great pleasure that we are here today to inaugurate officially this new Fraternity dependent on the Minister General. My first words would wish to be of gratitude to the Lord for having aroused in you the vocation to work in this Fraternity called to be “a place of meeting and dialogue” with Islam and the Orthodox Church. Thank you also, dear Brothers, for having responded to that call. May the Lord bless your life and mission. To be a Fraternity of dialogue, “a place of meeting and dialogue” with Islam and with the Orthodox Church, is the fundamental objective of your presence here in Istanbul, this is your life and principal mission in this centre of Orthodoxy and in the house of Islam. In this way you will be called on to respond to one of the fundamental demands of our vocation and mission as Friars Minor: to be builders of dialogue and communion with “those close by” and “those far away”, with those brothers that, although they profess the same faith, express it in a different way to us; to be builders of bridges of meeting and communion with those who, although professing faith in “the one God” like ourselves, form part, however, of a tradition that is very different from ours, such as the Islamic world. Dialogue forms part of our DNA as Friars Minor. Ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue is an essential part of our vocation and an unavoidable commitment of our mission as Friars Minor. No matter how difficult it may be, we cannot renounce it. To renounce dialogue as a path to meeting and communion with the “other”, would be to compromise seriously our faithfulness to the Gospel, in so far as it is a loving dialogue of God with man, to the Church of the II Vatican Council, which rediscovered the privileged path of its mission among men in dialogue, and to St. Francis, who, after his meeting with the Sultan, discovered in dialogue the only way to meet his “neighbour” and “the one far away”. Dear Brothers of the Fraternity “St. Mary Draperis” of Istanbul: Thank you for reminding us that the Franciscan is a man of dialogue and ecumenism by vocation, thank you for inviting us to grow constantly in this vocation, thank you for your presence in this place of “fracture”. In all that is referred to you directly, I ask you to grow constantly in this dialoguing and ecumenical submission to our vocation. For this, echoing what was said to us by the Final Document of the Pentecost Chapter 2003, I invite you to see “the sweetness of God” in the “other”, in the different; I invite you to open up to the “different”; I invite you to go out to meet “the one far away”, like Francis who found “sweetness” in the embrace of the leper (cfr. Test. 1-3) and went out to meet the Sultan, who at that time was presented as the “enemy” (cfr. 1Cel 57). Allow yourselves to be led by the Spirit in order to enter into real communion with others, to open up to the mystery of the other, by being “meek, peaceful and modest, gentle and humble, speaking courteously to all, as is becoming” (Rb 3, 11). And always remember, dear brothers, that our life, our life in fraternity, “is the first and foremost witness to the Gospel” (GGCC 87, 1-2) and that, therefore, our mission is written in the very heart of our way of life in fraternity (cfr. LgP 38). In this context, I cannot but invite you to a life of authentic and profound communion among yourselves so that your life may be “an example and mirror for those that live in the world” (TestCl 20). All this carries with it everything that we take on, on the personal and institutional levels, a path of purification and conversion; it demands obedience to the Word, which is communion; it requires a life of poverty, which opens us up to the richness of the other and makes us receptive before the gift of neighbour and, at the same time, it leads us to placing the gifts each one of us has received at the disposition of others. Dear Brothers, the Order expects a lot from your life and mission in this privileged place for meeting. You may rely on our prayers and sincere appreciation for all that you are and do in this “place of mission”. May the blessing of the Seraphic Father always accompany you.