Arcangelo da Fossés

The first official report sent to the Congregation of the Propagation of the Faith

Introduction by Padre Costanzo Cargnoni OFM Cap

Translation by Patrick Colbourne OFM Cap

Translators note: This translation is based on the introduction, text and footnotes which were published by P. Costanzo Cargnoni O.F.M. Cap. In I Frati Cappuccini: Documenti e testimonianze dell primo secolo, Edizioni Frate Indovino, Perugia, vol III/2. pp.4179-4183.

Father Arcangelo da Fossés, the superior of the mission in Greece, sent a report from Constantinople to Cardinal Lodovico Ludovisi and the other Cardinals in at the Sacred Congregation of the Faith. The report dealt with the progress made following four years of work. It emphasised the good relationship that existed between the missionaries and the Patriarch Cirillo Contaris.

Source: ASV, Borghese I, vol. 469, f. 173r-174r. Edizione: P. Ignazio da Seggiano, Documenti inedita sull’apostolato dei minori cappuccino nel vicino Oriente (1623-1683), in CF 18 (1948) 135-137, doc. VII.

[Constantinople 14th September 1631]

7616 I thought that I would be showing greater respect for Your Most Eminent Lordships if I sent a report through Father Joseph, who is our Superior and Commissary Apostolic of the missions in the Levant, rather than telling you myself about the great progress that we have made as we try day after day to make progress in serving God in accord with what Your Lordships commissioned us to do.[1] However, during the last eight days I have received instructions from Father Joseph to send a report about every two months so as not to intrude on your patience. I shall begin to fulfil my obligation by stating that we have four friaries in Greece, and they are situated in Constantinople, Scio, Smyrna and Nakia.

We have been in the first of these for four years where we work in a very beautiful church and live in a small friary. We administer the Sacraments continually hearing the Confessions of Italians, French and Greek penitents. During the two years of the plague, we preached on feasts and Sundays in Greek as well as in French. Following the recent famine, we have begun to teach catechism to the young people at Galata who belong both to the Latin and Greek Rite. With the help of God, we shall continue to do this every Sunday during the year. We did not teach the Greeks without seeking the consent and permission of the Patriarch.[2]

7617 There are eight of us here in Constantinople. Two of these, who have been here since the beginning, speak Greek so well that when you hear them speak you would think that they were Greeks. Some of the locals think that they are Greeks when they hear the speaking with people in the local language.[3] What is more important is that with the grace of God we have observed our Rule to the letter by living off alms as we do when living amongst Christians.[4] Things could not be going better than what they are in our relationship with all the countries and Ambassadors who live here.[5] They recognise how the people trust us. I will not go into detail so are not to become a nuisance.

Our Fathers have been in Scio for four years and they have a church and a nearby room where they carry out the same thing as above except giving instruction to the children because they are situated a long way from the city. However, with the approval and through the kindness of Your Most Eminent Lordships, the people of Scio have provided another church called Casaccia which is situated within the city and so I believe that this will make it possibly for them to do more than they have done up to now.

I can inform Your Eminences that a short time ago the people of Scio have provided us with Casaccia where the five priests preach in Greek.[6] Although I have not heard from anyone who was present, I am able to inform you because of two letters, one from Monsignor Santorini, a certified copy of which I will send you, and the other from one of the leading citizens in Scio who wrote to a friend, of what has taken place. I think that the French Ambassador will send you a copy as I have not told him that I am sending one to you. One of the in-laws of the one who wrote it brought a copy to our friary as soon as he received it. In the letter Your Eminences will see how by the grace of God the Greeks wish us well and therefore we hope that things will continue to improve.

7618 We have three priests in Smyrna, one of whom speaks Greek while the others preach in French to a good number of French nationals. They use the chapel of the French Consul as a church, and he has appointed them administrators of the site.[7]

We have had two priests in Naxia for three years. One preached the Lenten and the Advent Courses in Greek. At the request of the Archbishop, he also preached more than once a week to all the clergy regarding cases of conscience. So far, they have neither a residence nor a church.[8] Nevertheless, I hope that they will have one soon since a few days ago the people who live on the island gave them a piece of ground where two churches had previously stood close to one another. A church as well as a room for the priests to live in could be built there. This would be in accord with Turkish law. The construction has been going on for two months. Concerning this I wish to inform Your Eminences that the general of the Turkish police sent two or three of them to Naxia to collect what was owing in taxes. The people were afraid that the Bey, who as in charge of these officers, would take the money that had been set aside for the buildings. However, when he saw the place and knew that it was for the Capuchins, he told them to go ahead and as a sign of the respect that he had for Your Eminences he gave them something to help them along.[9]

7619 This, my Lord Eminences, is a description of our activities and of how we live in these areas and of how we always live in conformity with our Rule. If I did not fear imposing on Your Eminences, I would give more details that would describe what we hope to do, but for the time being, I am content to inform Your Eminences of the respect we have now won from the Greeks, so that Your Eminences may have some grasp of the admiration that they have for us. I shall conclude the present report by telling you what happened to me on Holy Thursday when I went to a certain church to see the usual ceremonies when the Greeks were in attendance. I was seated in the middle of the people and the Patriarch immediately sent a Deacon to bring me up to sit near his throne. He could not have done anything better than give me that position in front of all the people. He honoured me by placing me in that position. Everyone could see the esteem he had shown and continued to show during the entire ceremony.

I most humbly beg Your Eminences to believe what I am saying and what I shall say in future since at present I only want to say what is actually happening. Therefore, I ask the Lord God to grant you every kind of joy both in heaven and on earth and I shall humbly kiss your feet and your hands.

I remain, Your Most Eminent Lordships, Your most humble and obedient servant in Christ

Father Arcanagelo da Fossés, Capuchin

Constantinople, 14th September 1631.

  1. Following his journey of exploration in the Near East which ended in 1622, Father Pacific da Provins sent a detailed report to Pope Gregory XV and the Sacred Congregation of the Propagation of the Faith in which he asked for a Capuchin mission to be set up in those areas. Cf. above n. 7602. He speaks about this in his Le Voyage de Perse (lib III ch. 1). He says that both the Pope and the Congregation “agreed with his thoughts and sent two of our priests as Commissaries of the missions. I, and two other missionaries, were sent to accompany them and begin in Constantinople.” Cf. P. Pacifique de Provins, Le voyage de Perse cit., Assisi 1939 207. With regard to the first interventions of the Congregation of the Propaganda of the Faith cf. Rocco da Cesinale, Storia III, 61s; Godefroy de Paris, un grand missionaire oublié in CF 4 (1934) 543-45; 5 (1935) 218s.
  2. The Patriarch was Cirillo Contaris, who professed the Catholic faith in 1638 in the presence of the Conventual Friar Angelo Petrieca. He was in friendly correspondence with Cardinal Antonio Barberini.
  3. Cf. Rocco d Cesinale, Storia III, 67. See also the report of Tommaso da Parigi in CF 18 (1948) 179s.
  4. Arcangelo said the same thing in the letter that he wrote on 15th April 1627 to a lady who was at the French Court. Cf. above n. 7603-7806.
  5. That is in Turkey.
  6. Regarding the mission in Scio cf. the report by Tommasso da Parigi in CF 18 (1948) 182s; and Rocco da Cesinale, Storia III, 71-75.
  7. Regarding the mission in Smyrna cf. once again the report by Tommasso da Parigi, ibid., 491s, and Rocco da Cesinale, Storia III, 80-94.
  8. Tommasso da Parigi deals with this mission in his report, ibid., 183-185; and Rocco da Cesinale, Storia III, 75-79.
  9. This is one of many examples of the love that was shown towards the Capuchins, who had received the privilege of exemption from all kinds of taxes.