Concerning missionary work in the Near East
Introduction by Padre Costanzo Cargnoni OFM Cap
Translated by Patrick Colbourne OFM Cap
Translator’s 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 del primo secolo, Edizioni Frate Indovino, Perugia, vol III/2, pp.4154-4156.
After assisting Father Ippolito da Parigi for a lengthy period of time in the Near East and visiting the main centres and familiarising himself with the political situation in order to draw up a Catholic missionary programme, Father Pacifico de Provins (+ 1648) came to Rome in December 1622. After celebrating the feast of Christmas, he sent a petition to Cardinal Lodovico who was the Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of the Propagation of the Faith, and to other Cardinals in which he asked for a Capuchin mission which was in line with the missionary spirit of St Francis to be established in that area.
[Rome 10th January 1623]
7602 Most Illustrious and Reverend Lords,
Having sent Your Lordships a brief report on what I saw and experienced in the Levant, I Brother Pacifico della Scala, kneel once again at your feet, not to ask for money for myself or my Order, but to simply request an obedience and the command from the sacrosanct tribunal so that more friars may be sent so that, by the grace of God, there may be friars who are suitably prepared for this work, particularly in Constantinople, Aleppo, Smyrna, Alexandria, Armenia and Moluch in the East. These places are experiencing difficulties and are crying out for help. At the moment four are required in Aleppo, four in Smyrna, four in Alexandria, four in Armenia and four in Moluch. They are greatly needed in these places where Aleppo is the place that is the key to the entire Levant.
Because I have heard that your Illustrious Lordships are about to despatch priests from some Religious Orders to the European area of Father Gianni where almost everyone is a Christian, I dare to ask that you also despatch us poor Capuchins. I do so because during my trip to these places I had personal experience of how their poor style of clothing and detachment from money and exemplary lifestyle was more effective than simply going without such things and this is what amazed the infidels.
I add that we have a prophesy by a Sibyl and the Abbott Joachim that is mentioned by the author of the Book of Conformities which expresses a great hope that this is the time in the Order that was hinted at by St Francis regarding what was to happen in the East and the lands subject to Mohamed.
In line with everything that they considered to be valuable, I am shedding tears as I await the help that should be given to so many poor souls who have been redeemed by the blood of the Most Sweet Saviour, of which the Divine Majesty never asked repayment.
[on the back] To the Most illustrious and Reverend Lord Cardinals of the Congregation of the Propagation of the Faith from Father Pacific dalla Scala, Capuchin.
- Regarding Father Pacifico da Provins (1588-1548) see Lexicon cap., 1259s. ↑
- This was perhaps the old name for Persia. ↑
- Regarding the story of “Father Gianni” see A. Mulders, Missionsgeschucgte. Die Ausbreitung des katholgischen Glaubens, translated from Dutch, Regensburg 1960, 158, note 7 (bibliog.) ↑
- This is a noteworthy observation which explains the importance which the early Capuchin friars attached to austerity and exterior poverty in their missionary strategy. ↑
- This shows the influence of the Franciscan spirituality that comes from the Book of Conformities. Cf. Conf. IV 44, 56; see also Fredegando d’Anversa, Le idee francescane spirituali dei Frati Minori Cappuccini nel sec. XVI, in IF 2 (1927) 113-130. ↑