Make your selections for the chapters on the left.
In 1983, Fr. Raffaele Pazzelli, TOR, one of the
most recognized and well respected Franciscan scholars in the Order, published a
historical introduction and commentary of The Rule of the Brothers and Sisters of Third
Order Regular of St. Francis in Italian.
On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the
approval of the Rule, the General Council of the Third Order Regular has decided to
publish an English translation of this important text. It is hoped that it will inspire
our friars and sisters to renew their dedication to the Rule and their commitment to
religious life. In order to facilitate communication among the brothers and sisters, the
publication also includes the addresses of the communities that are connected by our
common profession of the Rule.
There are at least four commentaries which have
been written about the Rule. Fr. Raffaele's is one of the most insightful because he was a
witness and collaborator in all phases of the project which gave birth to the text. In
addition, Fr. Pazzelli is the author of several books which deal with the spirituality of
the friars and sisters of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis. He is, without a doubt,
one of the most competent scholars in the Franciscan family and is able to situate the
spirit of the Rule in its proper historical and spiritual context.
Fr. Raffaele presents the key elements regarding
the history and development of the content of the Rule in his introduction. The commentary
is brief, but substantial and comprehensive and his insights are valuable and challenging.
Every brother and sister would benefit from a thorough and meditative reading of the text.
My hope is that Fr. Raffaele's historical
introduction and commentary will inspire numerous brothers and sisters to embrace the
ideals that are contained in the Rule more fully.
Fr. Ilija Zivkovic, TOR
I. HISTORICAL INTRODUCTION
HOW THIS RULE WAS BORN
After the Second World War (1939-1945) and
the consequent rapid change of mentality and behavior which spread throughout all of
society all over the world, even before the Second Vatican Council religious began to feel
the desire for renewal, based on a return to their origins and a deeper knowledge of their
charism. The Council documents, especially the Constitution Lumen Gentium and the Decree
Perfectae Caritatis seemed to encourage those demands and even mapped out a practical road
In this new climate, the Rule of the Third Order
Regular of St. Francis, promulgated by Pope Pius XI in 1927, seemed inadequate to many of
the men and women religious who followed it. In certain areas of that text the principles
of Franciscan spirituality were not delineated well, or at least they were not explained
in precise terms which corresponded to the desires of the new candidates. Thus the
tertiary congregations began moving towards the preparation of new texts which, in time
and with broader associations, became the draft of the Rule.
In 1965 25 congregations of Franciscan sisters
in France and Belgium joined together in a project of writing a Rule for Sisters only,
with the name of «The Rule of Life of the Franciscan Sisters. Composed of
twelve chapters, it was published in 1972 and widely diffused. It was commonly known as
«The French text».
In the same period (1967) the Franciscan
Cooperation in the
Netherlands prepared a text consisting of six
chapters, which was approved and adopted by the chapters of nineteen congregations of
Dutch origin. Hence its common name, «The Dutch text».
A third document was prepared by German
congregations. This «German text» had eight chapters. More than a rule, it was really a
doctrinal compilation; later, at the International Franciscan Meeting in Assisi in 1979,
it was revoked.
Lastly, the Fourth Interobediential Congress of
the Third Order Regular, meeting at Madrid in 1975, prepared a rough draft of a future
Rule, the «Statement of Understanding of the Franciscan Penitential Life», containing
six chapters. It became known as «The Madrid Statement»
In retrospect we can say that the only negative
aspect of these projects was their limited involvement, that is the lack of any serious
attempt to work towards a common agreement and, from the beginning, to work on a single
document that could serve the needs of all the congregations, both of men and of women,
which followed the same Rule of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis. In fact, each
group was going its own way, without even knowing or taking into account what the others
were doing. When such anomalies were finally discovered, people did not show the strength
or willingness to correct the situation, and this later produced some rather great
Thus each project was independent, and sometimes
based on different, if not opposing, principles. Only the hard work and patience of the
international bodies which were constituted after the 1979 General Assembly in Assisi
eventually succeeded in overcoming the differences and finally bringing about the
beginning of an agreement.
The meetings in
Assisi, 1976 and 1979
Among the various Rule drafts which were born,
the French text quickly came to the fore. Its promoters convoked a first International
Congress of Franciscan Sisters in Assisi in 1976. They were days of study and reflection.
The representatives of the men of the T.O.R. noted two important anomalies:
1) it was intended only for Franciscan sisters,
thus excluding the friars; this was contrary to the constant tradition of the Third Order,
both Secular and Regular which, from the time of St. Francis until that day had always had
one Rule for both brothers and sisters;
2) the project seemed to ignore the penitential
spirituality which was always the characteristic of the Third Order, as the Franciscan
study congresses on the penitential movement were just rediscovering at that time.
The international congress at Assisi closed
without a well defined vision. The organizers promised to spread the various rule drafts
for further study in view of another gathering in two or three years' time.
A second International Franciscan meeting was
announced for October 1979, once again in Assisi. In the interim the representatives of
the T.O.R. men repeatedly showed their willingness to collaborate, emphasizing the Order's
primary interest in a single common project which would preserve the unity of the Rule for
brothers and sisters.
The international assembly in Assisi marked the
meeting and definitive merger of the various currents within the Third Order. It was clear
to all that the line which had been adopted up to that point did not satisfy the needs of
many people. At the end of the meeting, which voted to adopt the French text as a basic
scheme for a new Rule, some important resolutions were drawn up for the continuation of
the work: one of these invited «the collaboration and integration of the men's
congregations into the study and drafting of one Rule; another added to the two
«consultors of the international Franciscan bodies» of the Friars Minor and Friars Minor
Capuchin who had assisted the French project from its very beginnings, a delegate or
«consultor» from the Friars Minor Conventual and one from the male Third Order Regular.
The same meeting provided for the creation of
two international bodies which would have the task of presiding over and promoting, from
that time on, all the work concerning the Rule project. These bodies were: the
International Franciscan Bureau (B.F.I.), composed of the General Superiors of six Third
Order Regular congregations, and an International Franciscan Commission (C.F.I.), composed
of nine members. The B.F.I. had the task of supervision and the ultimate responsibility
for the entire project; the C.F.I.'s task was the practical organization of the work and
determining the procedures for achieving a final document, involving all the
congregations, men and women, of the Third Order Regular. The
«consultors» of the four men's Franciscan Families were part of both groups as
counselors and experts, but without the right to vote.
The meeting at
Grottaferrata, 8-10 March 1980
These resolutions were fully put into effect in
the important meeting held at Grottaferrata (Rome) at which, for the first time, all the
members of the B.F.I., the C.F.I., and the four «consultors» were present (1).
The meeting clearly determined the end and means
of the future work in accordance with the directives given by the Assisi meeting in 1979:
a) there would be one rule, for both the friars
and sisters of the Third Order Regular;
b) the text would contain the principle elements
of Franciscan spirituality inspiring the various congregations of the friars and sisters
so that each congregation could recognize itself in it. These fundamental values are four:
poverty, minority, penance, conversion, and contemplation;
c) the basic text would continue to be the one
voted on at Assisi, but it would be integrated and modified to respond to the demands of
the new situation;
d) there would be constituted a Work Group with
the task of redrafting the new document under precise directions from the C.F.I. It would
be assisted by four Franciscan experts who were chosen and appointed: Jean-Franqois Godet,
P. Francesco S. Pancheri, ofm Conv.; P. Jaime Zudaire, ofm Cap.; Bro. Bartolomeo
e) all congregations, male and female, following
the current Third Order Regular Rule would have to be notified about the work done from
that point on, receive all the documentation and submit observations and proposals for the
new text, on the congregational level.
It is clear that, in order to achieve this
common view, it was necessary, if not a compromise, at least a mutual understanding
between the two main currents within the Third Order Regular, represented by the «French
text« and the «Madrid Statement».
Beginning with the historical fact of the
variety of origins and characteristics of many congregations, some of which even had
nonFranciscan beginnings, it was not possible to impose a single, limited viewpoint on all
the congregations. Thus the backers of the French text had to admit and understand the
reality and value of the «penitential tradition» within some congregations, especially
those with more ancient origins, in continuous line with the penitents who followed
Francis of Assisi. On the other hand, the defenders of the penitential line had to
acknowledge that many of the modern congregations - and these are in the greatest majority
- had their origins entirely outside the penitential spirituality, often in the shadow of
the Friars Minor or Poor Clares, and could therefore not be compelled to accept the
penitential spirituality as the sole constitutive element of the new Rule text.
This «bilateral understanding» was the only
way possible for preserving the unity and uniqueness of one Rule for the entire Third
Order Regular family.
The unity and uniqueness had to be seen by all
as an end and good of utmost importance.
In the C.F.I. meeting which took place in Assisi
on 11-12 June 1980 they drafted and established the particulars of the structure and tasks
of the Work Group, composed of 10 members from various continents and representing various
components of the Third Order Regular.
Their task was described as follows: starting
with the basic schema (the text voted on at the 1979 Assisi meeting), they had to, in
practice, redraft the text in the light of the observations and proposals offered by the
congregations (who, in the interim, were already studying the basic text) and insert into
it the spiritual contributions or essential points which were present in the Madrid
Statement and the Dutch text, according to the guidelines established at the meeting at
Grottaferrata. In order to be approved, each article of the new Rule would require an
absolute majority vote, that is, two thirds of the vote, on the first and second ballot;
the text would have to be re-worked between ballots if there was no majority; on the third
ballot an absolute majority (one more than half) was required, in which case, however, the
alternative form of the article would be presented to the C.F.I. for final decision.
The Reute text (1980) and
the Brussels text (1981)
The work group (3) met from 1-10 September 1980 in Reute (Federal Republic of Germany); even
in the midst of various kinds of serious problems, a new text was prepared. This became
known as the «Reute text». The C.F.I. and the B.F.I. met from 11-13 September to examine
it; they decided to send it to all the congregations for further study and asked them to
submit any proposals or modifications. They were to be specific, citing reasons also; they
were to be sent to the C.F.I. office by 15 April 1981.
In the interim, the two groups (B.F.I. and
C.F.I.) which had the task of preparing the new rule draft continued their international
meetings in order to map out the next steps, to coordinate the collating of the responses
and proposals and to resolve the practical questions as they arose. The B.F.I. met at Rome
on 8-9 November 1980 and the C.F.I. at Alassio (Savona, Italy) on 1-2 December 1980 and at
Montpellier (France) 26-27 February 1981. The main objective of the B.F.I. from that time
on was to prepare the future general assembly of the Third Order Regular congregations.
Its guidelines were reduced to concrete and precise resolutions by the C.F.I. Among these
it is well to recall here the idea of instituting a «solidarity» fund to take care of
the expenses incurred at the coming General Assembly (both travel and lodging) for those
General Superiors who would otherwise be unable to attend, thus reaffirming the equality
of the vote of all general superiors, regardless of the size of the congregation. They
also specified the role and procedure of the Work Group for their next meeting in which
they would have to «redraft the Reute text, taking into account the observations and
proposals of the congregations, to achieve a brief and concrete text of an inspirational
nature, faithful to Francis' evangelical project».
The work group met at Brussels (Belgium) from
10-20 May 1981. 205 congregations had submitted observations and proposals. Having had
some experience in Reute, the members of the Work Group rapidly went about their task,
faithfully following the directives established by the C.F.I. This latter group met at
Brussels on 21-22 May and carefully examined the new text; they found that it was truly
imbued with a spiritual nature, it seemed rich and complete, supported by an internal
logic, and was clear and coherent. It could be hoped that all the congregations could find
themselves in this text, and that the discussion and approval of the text at the next
General Assembly would present no serious problem.
It was decided to send the new text, now
referred to as the «Brussels text» to the individual congregations so that the general
councils (and the entire congregations, should they so choose), could study and discuss it
so that the general superiors could bring the desires and vote of the entire congregation
to the next general assembly.
Towards the General
The B.F.I. and the C.F.I. meetings after
Brussels had as their main purpose the preparation of the general assembly. It was first
of all confirmed that its primary goal would be to discuss the Brussels text and achieve a
formal text to be approved by the assembly itself. They discussed the preparation of the
procedural norms for the assembly. This was done in such a way that the assembly could
appreciate their functionless and objectivity; it was, however, respectful of the freedom
of the assembly in its decisions, but with characteristics of rigorous efficiency for such
a large assembly. It was decided to hold both plenary assembly and small group meetings
each day so as to facilitate the exchange of ideas. Longer periods of time were provided
during the opening days for the presentation of the fundamental values of the text, and
for the presentation of the individual chapters, so that the entire assembly might come to
a deeper spiritual understanding of the Rule before beginning to discuss, emend and vote
upon it. As per the voting systems to be used in the assembly, a triple process was
a) a,straw vote of pleasure or displeasure
following the presentation of each chapter; this would lead, if necessary, to proposals
for changes in the small groups;
b) an orientation vote on the basic text and any
proposed amendments. Every orientation vote achieving a two thirds majority would be
c) a deliberative, final vote, article by
article and chapter by chapter for those parts of the text which had not received a two
thirds majority during the orientational vote.
The General Assembly was called to order on 1
March 1982 at the < Domus Pacis» in Rome; it was adjourned on 10 March.
This was undoubtedly the largest and most
important general assembly of the men's and women's tertiary congregations ever convened
in history. 192 General Superiors or Ministers (or their delegates) participated.
Including the Work Group, the consultors, the outside observers, translators, secretarial
and support staff, the number of participants was more than 260 in all, coming from 37
nations on all five continents. Throughout the preparation, planning, and actual time of
the assembly, it was completely under the direction of men and women professing the Rule
of the Third Order Regular.
The ten days of discussions, meetings and common
prayer rapidly brought to maturation a process which had begun some time before, leading
the participants to a much deeper and common understanding of the meaning of being part of
the Third Order Regular. Historical and doctrinal points of view were gradually clarified
and illustrated; there was a growing conviction among the participants that, even in the
great variety of origins of the tertiary congregations, there was a treasury of basic
common values which demanded the preservation of unity (the Rule) and yet allowed the
continuation of a precious plurality (Constitutions). Once they had reached these
convictions, a vital and essential point, the journey was rather easy, with evidence of
true attention and sensitivity to the needs of particular traditions.
The entire Acta of the assembly were published,
as well as a smaller work containing the principal presentations which formed the object
of the considerations and discussions which led to the improvement and approval of the
final text of the Rule.
This material, which can be easily examined, as
well as the almost unanimous agreement reached in each article and chapter of the Rule
demonstrate the great degree of unity - in both thought and intention - achieved by the
men's and women's congregations of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis.
The text of the Rule voted upon by the assembly
was quickly presented by the B.F.I. to the Sacred Congregation for Religious and for
The Cardinal Prefect of that Congregation,
His Eminence Cardinal Eduardo Pironio, with the date of 30 April 1983, announced to the
B.F.I. and other interested parties that the new Rule had received the «solenne conferma
pontificia» with the following letter:
SACRA CONGREGATIO PRO
RELIGIOSIS ET INSTITUTIS SAECUARIBUS
Prot. n. Sp.R. 463/79 Rome, 30 April 1983
In the audience which the Holy Father deigned to
grant me on 17 December of last year, he allowed me to present to him the new text of the
«Regula et Vita Fratrum et Sororum Tertii Ordinis Sancti Francisci» approved by this
Sacred Congregation with some modifications, asking him to be so kind as to confirm it
with a solemn Pontifical Document dated the eighth day of that same month. The Holy Father
kindly granted my request.
I am now happy to be able to communicate to you
that His Excellency Archbishop Eduardo Martinez Somalo, Substitute of the Secretariat of
State, in a letter numbered Protocol n. 104,237 and dated 21 April has transmitted the
Brief «Franciscanum Vitae Propositum» with which the Holy Father confirmed the mentioned
text of the «Regula», a copy of which is hereby sent to you, for your information,
together with a copy of the «Regula» .
Rejoicing with all of the Franciscan families
for this further sign of the Holy Father's kindness, I express my best wishes that the
solemn pontifical confirmation may be an encouragement to live generously the religious
consecration in imitation of the Holy Patriarch St. Francis of Assisi.
I use this occasion to express to you my pious
esteem and humblest regards.
In Christ and Mary Most Holy,
Cardinal Eduardo Pironio, Prefect.
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1 The B.F.I. was
composed of: Sr. Elisabeth Delor, Superior General of the Franciscan Sisters of the
Kingdom of Jesus Christ, President; Sr. Giovanna Achille, Superior General of the
Alcantarine Franciscan Sisters; Sr. Alma Dufault, Superior General of the Franciscan
Missionaries of Mary; Sr. Eliska Pretschnerova, Superior General of the School Sisters of
St. Francis; Sr. Christiane Wittmers, Superior General of the Franciscan Sisters,
Daughters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary; Fr. Luis Cuesta y Nozal, Minister
General of the Tertiary Capuchins of the Sorrowful Mother, representing the men's
The C.F.I. had the following members: Sr. Carmen Ciria,
Franciscan Sisters of the Holy Spirit: Sr. Roberta Cusack, Executive Director of the
Federation of Franciscan Sisters of the U.S.A.; Sr. Louise Dendooven, Franciscan
Missionaries of Mary, Coordinator; Sr. Maria Andrea Frech, Sisters of St. Francis of
Assisi of Montpellier, treasurer; Sr. Ethelburga Hacker, of the Secretariat of German
Franciscan Sisters; Sr. Bernadette Nourdin, Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi of Lyon,
Secretary; Sr. Romualda Trinchera, President of the Movimento Religiose Francescane
(Italy), Franciscan Missionaries of the Immaculate Heart; Sr. Augusta Visentin, Franciscan
Missionaries of the Sacred Heart;
Brother Columban Keller, Missionary Brothers of St.
Francis, representing the men's congregations.
The four «consultors» were: Fr. Bernardin Beck,
O.F.M.; Fr. Fidele Lenaerts, O.F.M. Cap.; Fr. Candido Lorenzoni, O.F.M. Conv.; Fr.
Raffaele Pazzelli, T.O.R.
All of these were in their respective positions from
the meeting at Grottaferrata (1980) until the General Assembly in March 1982; there were
no substitutions or changes.
2 The group of experts was not
retained after the meeting at Reute (September 1980). Only Brother Jean-Francois Godet
remained to guide the Work Group as its facilitator.
3 The work group was composed
of: Sr. Margaret Carney, Sisters of St. Francis of the Providence of God, Pittsburgh,
U.S.A.; Sr. Isabella Ciruzzi, Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Assisi (del Giglio); Sr.
Elena Echavarren, Tertiary Capuchin, Saragozza, Spain; Bro. Paulus Hahn, O.S.F. from Bad
Bergzabern, Federal Republic of Germany; Fr. Thaddeus Horgan, Atonement, Washington,
U.S.A.; Sr. Ignatia. Bombay, India; Sr. Marianne Jungbluth, Eupen, Belgium; Sr. Marie
Benoit Luchemet, Toulouse, France; Sr. Maria Luiza Piva, Santa Catarina, Brazil; Sr.
Honoria Montalgo, Pasto, Colombia. All the members of the work group were present at Reute
except Br. Paulus Hahn.