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THE GENERAL CONSTITUTIONS
of
THE SECULAR FRANCISCAN ORDER

1990


CONTENTS:

CHAPTER I : THE SECULAR FRANCISCAN ORDER

CHAPTER II : FORM OF LIFE AND APOSTOLIC ACTIVITY
Title I : The Form of Life
Title II : Active Presence in the Church and in the World
CHAPTER III : LIFE IN FRATERNITY
Title I : General Orientations
Title II : Entrance into the Order and Formation
Title III : The Fraternity at the Various Levels
Title IV : Election to and Termination of Offices
Title V : Spiritual and Pastoral Assistance of the SFO
Title VI : The Fraternal Visit and the Pastoral Visit
Title VII : The Franciscan Youth
Title VIII : In Communion with the Franciscan Family and the Church

CHAPTER I
THE SECULAR FRANCISCAN ORDER

Article 1

  1. All the faithful are called to holiness and have a right to follow their own spiritual way in communion with the Church.*)
    *) See Code of Canon Law (hereafter cited as CCL) 210, 214, and Lumen Gentium 40.
  2. (Rule 1)
    There are many spiritual families in the Church with different charisms. Among these families, the Franciscan Family, which in its various branches recognizes St. Francis of Assisi as its father, inspiration, and model, must be included.
  3. (Rule 2)
    From the beginning, the Secular Franciscan Order has had its own proper place in the Franciscan Family.*) It is formed by the organic union of all the Catholic fraternities whose members, moved by the Holy Spirit, commit themselves through profession to live the Gospel in the manner of St. Francis, in their secular state, following the Rule approved by the Church.
    *) It is also called "Secular Franciscan Fraternity", or Franciscan Third Order" (TOF). See Rule 1, footnote.
    Canon 303 of the CCL defines third orders: "Associations whose members live in the world, but share in the spirit of some religious institute, under the overall direction of the same institute, and who lead an apostolic life and strive for Christian perfection, are known as third orders, or are called by some other suitable title."
  4. The Holy See has entrusted the pastoral care and spiritual assistance of the Secular Franciscan Order (SFO), because it belongs to the same spiritual family, to the Franciscan First Order and Third Order Regular (TOR). These are the "Institutes" to whom the altius moderamen, referred to by canon 303 of the Code of Canon Law (CCL), belongs.*)
    *) See General Constitutions SFO, 85,2 (hereafter cited as Const.). When the Constitutions are cited without any other specification, the reference is to the present text.
  5. The Secular Franciscan Order is a public association in the Church.*) It is divided into fraternities at various levels: local, regional, national, and international. Each one has its own juridical personality within the Church.
    *) See CCL 116; 301,3; 312; 313.

Article 2

  1. The vocation to the SFO is a specific vocation that gives form to the life and apostolic activity of its members. Therefore, those who are bound by profession to another religious family are not accepted.
  2. The SFO is open to the faithful of every state of life. The following may belong to it:
    -- the laity (men and women);
    -- the secular clergy (deacons, priests, bishops).

Article 3

  1. The secular state characterizes the spirituality and the apostolic life of those belonging to the SFO.
  2. Their secularity, with respect to vocation and to apostolic life, expresses itself according to the respective state, that is:
    -- for the laity, contributing to building up the Kingdom of God by their presence in their life- situations and in their temporal activities.*)
    *) See CCL 225, and the Discourse of Pope John Paul II to the SFO, September 27, 1982 in L'Osservatore Romano, September 28, 1982.
    -- for the secular clergy, by offering to the people of God the service which is properly theirs, in communion with the bishop and the presbytery.*)
    *) See CCL 275 ff, Presbyterorum ordinis 12; 14; 15 ff.
    Both are inspired by the gospel options of Francis of Assisi, committing themselves to continue their mission with the other components of the Franciscan Family.
  3. The vocation to the SFO is a vocation to live the Gospel in fraternal communion. For this purpose, the members of the SFO gather in ecclesial communities which are called fraternities.

Article 4

  1. The SFO is governed by the universal law of the Church, and by its own: the Rule, the Constitutions, the Ritual, and the particular statutes.
  2. The Rule establishes the nature, purpose, and spirit of the SFO.
  3. (Rule 3)
    The Constitutions have as their purpose:
    -- to apply the Rule;
    -- to indicate concretely the conditions for belonging to the SFO, its government, the organization of life in fraternity, and its seat.*)
    *) See CCL 304.

Article 5

  1. (Rule 3)
    The authentic interpretation of the Rule and of the Constitutions belongs to the Holy See.
  2. The practical interpretation of the Constitutions, with the purpose of harmonizing its application in different areas and at the various levels of the Order, belongs to the General Chapter of the SFO.
  3. The clarification of specific points which require a timely decision is the competence of the Presidency of the International Council of the SFO
    (See Art. 72).


Article 6

  1. The International Council of the SFO has its own proper statutes approved by the General Chapter of the SFO and confirmed by the Union of the Franciscan Ministers General.
  2. National fraternities have their own statutes approved by the Presidency of the International Council of the SFO.
  3. The regional and the local fraternities may have their own statutes approved by the council of the higher level.

Article 7

All regulations not in accordance with the present Constitutions are abrogated.


CHAPTER II
FORM OF LIFE AND APOSTOLIC ACTIVITY

TITLE I
THE FORM OF LIFE

Article 8

  1. The Secular Franciscans commit themselves by their profession to live the Gospel according to Franciscan spirituality in their secular condition.
  2. They seek to deepen, in the light of faith, the values and choices of the evangelical life according to the Rule of the SFO:
    (Rule 7)
    --- in a continually renewed journey of conversion and of formation;
    (Rule 4, par. 3)
    -- open to the opportunities that come from society and from the Church's life situation, "going from Gospel to life and from life to Gospel";
    -- in the personal and communal dimensions of this journey.

Article 9

  1. (Rule 5)
    The spirituality of the Secular Franciscan is a plan of life centered on the person and on the following of Christ,*) rather than a detailed program to be put into practice.
    *) See Rule of 1221, Chapt. 22; Second Letter to All the Faithful, 51.
  2. (Rule 4 par. 3)
    The Secular Franciscan, committed to following the example and the teachings of Christ, must personally and assiduously study the Gospel and Sacred Scripture. The fraternity and its leaders should foster love for the word of the Gospel and help the brothers and sisters to know and understand it as it is proclaimed by the Church with the assistance of the Spirit.*)
    *) See Dei verbum 10.

Article 10

(Rule 10)
"Christ, poor and crucified", victor over death and risen, the greatest manifestation of the love of God for humanity, is the "book" in which the brothers and sisters, in imitation of St. Francis, learn the purpose and the way of living, loving, and suffering. They discover in Him the value of contradictions for the sake of justice and the meaning of the difficulties and the crosses of daily life. With Him they can accept the will of the Father even under the most difficult circumstances and live the Franciscan spirit of peace, rejecting every doctrine contrary to human dignity.

Article 11

Mindful that the Holy Spirit is the source of their vocation and the animator of fraternal life and mission, Secular Franciscans should seek to imitate the faithfulness of St. Francis to his inspiration. They should listen to the exhortation of the Saint to desire above all things "the Spirit of God at work within them".*)

*) Rule of 1223, Chapt. 10.

Article 12

  1. Gaining inspiration from the example and the writings of St. Francis and, above all, filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit, each day the brothers and sisters faithfully live the great gift which Christ has given: the revelation of the Father. They should bear witness to this faith before all:
    -- in their family life;
    -- in their work;
    -- in their joys and sufferings;
    -- in their associations with all men and women, brothers and sisters of the same Father;
    -- in their presence and participation in the life of society;
    -- in their fraternal relationships with all creatures.
  2. (Rule 10)
    With Jesus, obedient even to death, they should seek to know and do the will of the Father. They should give thanks to God for the gift of freedom and for the revelation of the law of love. In order to carry out the will of the Father, they should accept the help which is offered to them through the mediation of the Church by those who are constituted as authority in her and by their confreres. They should take on the risk of courageous choices in their life in society with decisiveness and serenity.
  3. (Rule 8)
    The brothers and sisters should love meeting God as His children and they should "let prayer and contemplation be the soul of all they are and do." They should seek to discover the presence of the Father in their own heart, in nature, and in the history of humanity. In each of these, His salvific plan is fulfilled. The contemplation of this mystery will dispose them to collaborate in this loving plan.

Article 13

  1. (Rule 7)
    Secular Franciscans, called in earlier times "the brothers and sisters of penance", propose to live in the spirit of continual conversion. Some means to cultivate this characteristic of the Franciscan vocation, individually and in fraternity, are: listening to and celebrating the Word of God; review of life; spiritual retreats; the help of a spiritual adviser, and penitential celebrations. They should approach the Sacrament of Reconciliation frequently and participate in the communal celebration of it, whether in the fraternity, or with the whole people of God.*)
    *) Ordo Poenitentiae. Praenotanda 22 ff.
  2. In this spirit of conversion, they should live out their love for the renewal of the Church, which should be accompanied by personal and communal renewal. The fruits of conversion, which is a response to the love of God, are the works of charity in the interactions with the brothers and sisters.*)
    *) See Second Letter to All the Faithful 25 ff.
  3. Traditional among Franciscan penitents, penitential practices such as fasting and abstinence should be known, appreciated, and lived out according to the general guidelines of the Church.

Article 14

  1. Aware that God wanted to make of us all a single people and that he made his Church the universal sacrament of salvation, the brothers and sisters should commit themselves to a faith-inspired reflection on the Church, its mission in today's world and the role of the Franciscan laity within it. They should take up the challenges and accept the responsibilities that this reflection will lead them to discover.
  2. (Rule 8)
    The Eucharist is the center of the life of the Church. Christ unites us to himself and to one another as a single body in it. Therefore, the Eucharist should be the center of the life of the Fraternity. The brothers and sisters should participate in the Eucharist as frequently as possible, being mindful of the respect and love shown by St. Francis, who, in the Eucharist, lived all the mysteries of the life of Christ.
  3. They should participate in the sacraments of the Church, attentive not only to personal sanctification, but also to fostering the growth of the Church and the spreading of the Kingdom. They should collaborate in achieving living and conscious celebrations in their own parishes, particularly in the celebrations of baptism, confirmation, marriage, and the anointing of the sick.
  4. The brothers and sisters as well as the fraternities should adhere to the indications of the Ritual with respect to the different forms of participating in the liturgical prayer of the Church, giving priority to the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours.*)
    *) Ritual SFO, Appendix 26, 27. "According to the Rule (Art. 8), the Secular Franciscans are to join in liturgical prayer in one of the forms proposed by the Church, reliving the mysteries of Christ.
    These prayers may be:
    1. Morning and Evening Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours, either in common or in private. These celebrations are to be preferred at the Fraternity meetings;
    2. Short and appropriate forms of the Liturgy of the Hours of the local church.
    3. The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
    4. The Office of the Passion by St. Francis of Assisi.
    5. The recitation of the Office of the Twelve Our Fathers, enriched with short biblical passages and adapted to the Liturgy of the Hours, especially since it still thrives in many parts of the world and is a useful form of prayer in certain circumstances."
  5. In all places and at all times, it is possible for true worshipers of the Father to give him adoration and to pray to him. Nevertheless, the brothers and sisters should try to find times of silence and recollection dedicated exclusively to prayer.

Article 15

  1. (Rule 11)
    Secular Franciscans should pledge themselves to live the spirit of the Beatitudes and, in a special way, the spirit of poverty. Evangelical poverty demonstrates confidence in the Father, affects interior freedom, and disposes them to promote a more just distribution of wealth.
  2. Secular Franciscans, who must provide for their own families and serve society by means of their work and material goods, have a particular manner of living evangelical poverty. To understand and achieve it requires a strong personal commitment and the stimulation of the fraternity in prayer and dialogue, communal review of life, and attentiveness to the instructions of the Church, and the demands of society.
  3. Secular Franciscans should pledge themselves to reduce their own personal needs so as to be better able to share spiritual and material goods with their brothers and sisters, especially those most in need. They should give thanks to God for the goods they have received, using them as good stewards and not as owners. They should take a firm position against consumerism and against ideologies and practices which prefer riches over human and religious values and which permit the exploitation of the human person.
  4. They should love and practice purity of heart, the source of true fraternity.

Article 16

  1. (Rule 9)
    Mary, Mother of Jesus, is the model of listening to the Word and of faithfulness to vocation; we, like Francis, see all the gospel virtues realized in her.*)
    *) Salutation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
    The brothers and sisters should cultivate intense love for the most holy virgin, imitation, prayer, and filial abandonment. They should manifest their own devotion with expressions of genuine faith, in forms accepted by the Church.
  2. Mary is the model of fruitful and faithful love for the entire ecclesial community. Secular Franciscans and their fraternities should seek to live the experience of Francis, who made the Virgin the guide of his activity. With her, like the disciples at Pentecost, they should welcome the Spirit to create a community of love.*)
    *) See 2 Celano, 198.

TITLE II
ACTIVE PRESENCE IN THE CHURCH AND IN THE WORLD

Article 17

  1. (Rule 6)
    Called to work together in building up the Church as the sacrament of salvation for all and, through their baptism and profession, made "witnesses and instruments of her mission", Secular Franciscans proclaim Christ by their life and words.
    Their preferred apostolate is personal witness in the environment in which they live and service for building up the Kingdom of God within the situations of this world.*)
    *) See First Rule 17,3; Legend of the Three Companions , 36; Letter to All the Faithful, 53.
  2. The preparation of the brothers and sisters for spreading the Gospel message "in the ordinary circumstances of the world"*) and for collaborating in the catechesis within the ecclesial communities should be promoted in the Fraternities.
    *) Lumen Gentium 35.
  3. Those who are called to carry out the mission of catechists, presiders of ecclesial communities, or other ministries, as well as the sacred ministers, should make the love of St. Francis for the word of God their own, as well as his faith in those who announce it, and the great fervor with which he received the mission of preaching penance from the Pope.
  4. Participation in the service of sanctification, which the Church exercises through the liturgy, prayer, and works of penance and charity, is put into practice by the brothers and sisters above all in their own family, then in the fraternity and finally through their active presence in the local Church and in society.

For a Just and Fraternal Society

Article 18

  1. Secular Franciscans are called to make their own contribution, inspired by the person and message of Francis of Assisi, towards a civilization in which the dignity of the human person, shared responsibility, and love may be living realities.*)
    *) See Gaudium et Spes 31 ff.
  2. (Rule 13)
    They should deepen the true foundations of universal fraternity and create a spirit of welcome and an atmosphere of fraternity everywhere. They should firmly commit themselves to oppose every form of exploitation, discrimination, and exclusion and against every attitude of indifference in relation to others.
  3. They should work together with movements which promote the building of fraternity among peoples: they should be committed to "create worthy conditions of life" for all and to work for the freedom of all people.
  4. Following the example of St. Francis, Patron of Ecology, they should collaborate with efforts to fight pollution and to conserve all that is valuable in nature.

Article 19

  1. (Rule 14)
    Secular Franciscans should always act as a leaven in the environment in which they live through the witness of their fraternal love and clear Christian motivations.
  2. In the spirit of minority, they should opt for relationships which give preference to the poor and to those on the fringe of society, whether these be individuals or categories of persons or an entire people; they should collaborate in overcoming the exclusions of others and those forms of poverty that are the fruit of inefficiency and injustice.

Article 20

  1. (Rule 14)
    Secular Franciscans, committed by their vocation to build the Kingdom of God in temporal situations and activities, live their membership both in the Church and in society as an inseparable reality.
  2. As the primary and fundamental contribution to building a more just and fraternal world, they should commit themselves both to the generous fulfillment of the duties proper to their occupation and to the professional training that pertains to it. With the same spirit of service, they should assume their social and civil responsibilities.

Article 21

  1. (Rule 16)
    For St. Francis, work is a gift and to work is a grace. Daily work is not only the means of livelihood, but the opportunity to serve God and neighbor as well as a way to develop one's own personality. In the conviction that work is a right and a duty and that every form of occupation deserves respect, the brothers and sisters should commit themselves to collaborate so that all persons may have the possibility to work and so that working conditions may always be more humane.
  2. Leisure and recreation have their own value and are necessary for personal development. Secular Franciscans should maintain a balance between work and rest and should strive to make meaningful use of their leisure time.*)
    *) See Gaudium et Spes 67; Laborem exercens 16 ff.

Article 22

  1. (Rule 15)
    Secular Franciscans should "be in the forefront ... in the field of public life." They should collaborate as much as possible for the passage of just laws and ordinances.
  2. The fraternities should engage themselves through "courageous initiatives", consistent with their Franciscan vocation and with the directives of the Church, in the field of human development and justice. They should take clear positions whenever human dignity is attacked by any form of oppression or indifference. They should offer their fraternal service to the victims of injustice.
  3. The renunciation of the use of violence, characteristic of the followers of Francis, does not mean the renunciation of action. However, the brothers and sisters should take care that their interventions are always inspired by Christian love.

Article 23

  1. (Rule 19)
    Peace is the work of justice and the fruit of reconciliation and of fraternal love.*) Secular Franciscans are called to be bearers of peace in their families and in society:
    *) See Gaudium et Spes 78.
    -- they should see to the proposal and spreading of peaceful ideas and attitudes;
    -- they should develop their own initiatives and should collaborate, individually and as a fraternity, with initiatives of the Pope, the local Churches, and the Franciscan Family;
    -- they should collaborate with those movements and institutions which promote peace while respecting its authentic foundations.
  2. While acknowledging both the personal and national right to self-defence, they should respect the choice of those who, because of conscientious objection, refuse to bear arms.
  3. To preserve peace in the family, the brothers and sisters should, in due time, make a last will and testament for the disposition of their goods.

In the Family

Article 24

  1. (Rule 17)
    Secular Franciscans should consider their own family to be the first place in which to live their Christian commitment and Franciscan vocation. They should make space within it for prayer, for the Word of God, and for Christian catechesis. They should concern themselves with respect for all life in every situation from conception till death.
    Married couples find in the Rule of the SFO an effective aid in their own journey of Christian life, aware that in the sacrament of matrimony their love shares in the love that Christ has for his Church. The beauty and the strength of the human love of the spouses is a profound witness for their own family, the Church, and the world.
  2. In the fraternity:
    -- the spirituality of the family and of marriage and the Christian attitude towards family problems should be a theme for dialogue and for the sharing of experiences;
    -- they should share the important moments of the family life of their Franciscan brothers and sisters and they should give fraternal attention to those who live in loneliness and in other conditions of suffering;
    (Rule 19)
    -- they should create conditions suitable for dialogue between generations;
    -- the formation of groups of married couples and of family groups should be fostered.
  3. The brothers and sisters should collaborate with the efforts undertaken in the Church and in society to affirm both the value of fidelity and respect for life and to provide answers to the social problems of the family.

Article 25

Out of the conviction of the need to educate children to take an interest in community, "bringing them the awareness of being living, active members of the People of God"*) and because of the fascination which St. Francis can exercise on them, the formation of groups of children should be encouraged. With the help of a pedagogy and an organization suitable to their age, these children should be initiated into a knowledge and love of the Franciscan life. National statutes will give an appropriate orientation for the organization of these groups and their relationship to the fraternity and to the groups of Franciscan youth.
*) Apostolicam actuositatem 30.

Messengers of Joy and Hope

Article 26

  1. Even in suffering, Francis experienced confidence and joy from:
    -- the experience of the fatherhood of God;
    -- the invincible faith of rising with Christ to eternal life;
    -- the experience of being able to meet and praise the Creator in the universal Fraternity of all creatures.*)
    *) See 2 Celano , 125; Legend of Perugia, 43; Major Life, 9.

    (Rule 18)
    Therefore, Secular Franciscans are called to create conditions of life and of environment that would not be a threat to any person, but would lead to the discovery of the mind and will of God.

  2. (Rule 19)
    In conformity with the Gospel, they affirm their hope and their joy in living. They make a contribution to counter widespread distress and pessimism, thus preparing a better future.
    In the fraternity, the brothers and sisters should promote mutual understanding and they should see to it that the atmosphere of their meetings is welcoming and that it reflects joy. They should encourage one another for the good.

Article 27

  1. (Rule 19)
    The brothers and sisters, progressing in age, should learn to accept illness and increasing difficulties and to give a deeper sense to their life. This should be undertaken with increasing detachment as they set out for the promised Land. They should be firmly convinced that the community of those who believe in Christ and who love one another in him will go forward into eternal life as the "communion of saints".
  2. Secular Franciscans should commit themselves to create in their environment and, above all, in their fraternities, a climate of faith and hope so that "Sister Death" may be regarded as a passage to the Father, and all may prepare themselves with serenity.

CHAPTER III
LIFE IN FRATERNITY

TITLE I
GENERAL ORIENTATIONS

Article 28

  1. The Fraternity of the SFO finds its origin in the inspiration of Francis of Assisi to whom the Most High revealed the essential gospel quality of life in fraternal communion.*)
    *) See Constitutions 3,3; Testament 14.
  2. (Rule 20)
    "The SFO is divided into Fraternities of various levels", with the purpose of promoting, in an orderly form, the union and mutual collaboration among the brothers and sisters and their active and communal presence both in the local and in the universal Church.
  3. The brothers and sisters gather in local fraternities established in connection with a church or a religious house, or in personal fraternities, constituted for specific and valid reasons recognized in the decree of establishment.*)
    *) See CCL 518.

Article 29

  1. Local fraternities are grouped into fraternities at various levels: regional, national and international according to criteria that are ecclesial, territorial, or of another nature. They are coordinated and connected according to the norm of the Constitutions.
  2. (Rule 20)
    These fraternities, that each have their own juridical personality in the Church, should acquire, if possible, a civil juridical personality for the better fulfillment of their mission. It pertains to the national councils to give guidelines concerning the motivations and the procedures to be followed.
  3. National statutes should indicate the criteria for the organization of the SFO in the nation. The application of these criteria is left to the prudent judgment of the leaders of the fraternities concerned and of the national council.

Article 30

  1. The brothers and sisters are co-responsible for the life of the fraternity to which they belong and for the SFO as the organic union of all fraternities throughout the world.
  2. The sense of co-responsibility of the members requires personal presence, witness, prayer, and active collaboration, in accordance with each one's means and possible obligations for the animation of the fraternity.*)
    *) The applications deriving from these principles will be noted in Chapter III, Title III of the present Constitutions devoted to the fraternities at various levels.
  3. (Rule 25)
    In a family spirit, each brother and sister should make a contribution to the fraternity fund, according to each one's means, to provide the financial means needed for the life of the fraternity and for its religious, apostolic, and charitable works. The fraternity should make its financial contribution for the operation of the fraternities at higher levels.

Article 31

  1. (Rule 21)
    The fraternities at different levels are animated and guided by the minister or president, with the council, in accordance with the Rule, the Constitutions, and their own Statutes. These offices are conferred through elections.
  2. The office of minister or councilor is a fraternal service, a commitment to hold oneself available and responsible in relation to each brother and sister of the fraternity so that each one will realize his or her own vocation and each fraternity will be a true community, ecclesial and Franciscan, actively present in the Church and in society.
  3. The leaders of the SFO at every level should be perpetually professed, convinced of the validity of the Franciscan evangelical way of life, attentive to a broad and encompassing vision of the life of the Church and of society, open to dialogue, and ready to give and receive help and collaboration.
  4. The leaders should see to the spiritual and technical preparation and animation of the meetings both of the fraternities and of the councils. They should seek to inspire life and soul into the fraternities by their own witness, suggesting appropriate means for the development of the life of the fraternity and of apostolic activities in the light of the fundamental Franciscan options. They should see to it that the decisions made are carried out and they should promote collaboration among the brothers and sisters.

Article 32

  1. The minister and the council should live and foster the spirit and reality of communion among the brothers and sisters, among the various fraternities, and between them and the Franciscan Family. They should, above all, cherish peace and reconciliation in and around the fraternity.
  2. The minister's and councilors' duty to lead is temporary. The brothers and sisters, rejecting all ambition, should show love for the fraternity with a spirit of service, prepared both to accept and to relinquish the office.

Article 33

(Rule 20)

  1. "The various fraternities are coordinated and united according the norm of the Rule and of the Constitutions."*)
    *) This is a requirement of the communion among the fraternities, of the orderly collaboration among them, and of the unity of the SFO.
  2. In the guidance and coordination of the fraternities and of the Order, the personality and capacity of the individual brothers and sisters and of the individual fraternities should be promoted. The plurality of expressions of the Franciscan ideal and cultural variety must be respected.
  3. The councils of higher levels should not do what can be adequately carried out either by the local fraternities or by a council of a lower level. They should respect and promote their vitality so that they fulfill their duties properly. The local fraternities and councils concerned should commit themselves to carry out the decisions of the International Council and of the other councils of higher levels, and to implement their programs, adapting them when necessary to their own situation.

Article 34

Where the situation and the needs of the members require it, sections or groups which gather members sharing particular needs, common interests, or the same choices, may be established within the fraternity under the guidance of the one council. Such groups will be able to give themselves specific norms relative to their meetings and activities, firmly remaining faithful, however, to the needs which arise from membership in the one fraternity. National statutes may establish criteria suitable for the formation and functioning of sections or groups.

Article 35

  1. Priests who recognize that they are called by the Spirit to participate in the charism of St. Francis within the secular fraternity should find in it a specific provision in conformity with their mission among the People of God.
  2. Secular Franciscan priests, who may develop a valid service as assistants of fraternities, may also gather in fraternities of priests in order to pursue the ascetical and pastoral incentives which the life and doctrine of St. Francis and the Rule of the SFO offer them to live their vocation in the Church better. It is proper that the fraternities of priests have their own statutes which anticipate concrete forms for fraternal meetings and for spiritual formation as well as for making their communion with the whole Order living and functional.

Article 36

The brothers and sisters who commit themselves with private vows to live in the spirit of the beatitudes and to make themselves more disposed to contemplation and to the service of the fraternities, can be a great help in the spiritual and apostolic development of the SFO. These brothers and sisters may gather in groups according to statutes approved by the national council, and when these groups spread beyond the borders of a nation, by the International Council of the SFO. Such statutes should be in harmony with the present Constitutions.


TITLE II
ENTRANCE INTO THE ORDER AND FORMATION

Article 37

  1. (Rule 23)
    Membership in the Order is attained through a time of initiation, a time of formation, and the Profession of the Rule.
  2. The journey of formation, which should develop throughout life, begins with entrance into the fraternity. Mindful that the Holy Spirit is the principal agent of formation and always attentive to collaboration with Him, those responsible for formation are: the candidate, the entire fraternity, the minister with the council, the master of formation, and the assistant as spiritual guide.
  3. The brothers and sisters are responsible for their own formation developing in an ever more perfect way the vocation received from the Lord. The fraternity is called to help the brothers and sisters in this journey by means of a warm welcome, prayer, and example.
  4. The elaboration and adoption of means of formation, adapted to the local situations and offered as a help to those responsible for formation in the individual fraternities, belong to the national and regional councils in common agreement.

The Time of Initiation

Article 38

  1. (Rule 23)
    The period of initiation*) is a phase preparatory to the true and proper time of formation and is intended for the discernment of the vocation and for the reciprocal acquaintance between the fraternity and the aspiring member. It should guarantee the freedom and the seriousness of entrance into the SFO.
    *) Traditionally called "postulancy".
  2. The duration of the period of initiation and the forms employed in its development are established by the national statutes.
  3. It is the duty of the fraternity council to decide possible exemptions to this period of initiation, keeping in mind the guidelines of the national council.

Admission to the Order

Article 39

  1. (Rule 23)
    The request for admission to the Order is presented by the candidate to the minister of a local or personal fraternity by a formal act, in writing if possible.
  2. Conditions for admission are: to profess the Catholic faith, to live in communion with the Church, to be of good moral standing, and to show clear signs of a vocation.*)
    *) See CCL 316.
  3. The minister decides collegially with the council of the fraternity on the request, gives a formal answer to the candidate, and communicates this to the fraternity.
  4. The act of admission is to be registered and preserved in the records of the fraternity.

The Time of Formation

Article 40

  1. (Rule 23)
    The time of formation*), which begins with the rite of admission performed according to the Ritual, lasts at least one year.
    The purpose of this period is the maturation of the vocation, the experience of the evangelical life in fraternity, and a better knowledge of the Order. This formation should be carried out with frequent meetings for study and prayer and with concrete experiences of service and of apostolate. These meetings should be held, as far as possible and opportune, in common with the candidates of other fraternities.
    *) Traditionally called "novitiate".
  2. The candidates are guided to read and meditate on Sacred Scripture, to come to know the person and writings of St. Francis and of Franciscan spirituality, and to study the Rule and Constitutions. They are trained in a love for the Church and acceptance of her teaching. The laity practice living their Secular commitment in the world in an evangelical way.
  3. Participation in the meetings of the local fraternity is indispensable presupposition for initiation into community prayer and into fraternity life.
  4. A pedagogy in the Franciscan style and corresponding to the mentality of the place should be adopted according to the suggestions which will be formulated by the persons at the national level responsible for formation.

The Profession or Promise of Evangelical Life

Article 41

  1. (Rule 23)
    Having completed the period of initial formation, the candidate submits to the minister of the local fraternity a request to make his or her profession. Having heard the person responsible for formation and the assistant, the fraternity council decides by secret ballot on the admission to profession, gives its reply to the candidate, and informs the fraternity.
  2. The conditions for the Profession or Promise of evangelical life are:
    -- attainment of the age established by the national statutes;
    -- active participation in the period of formation for at least one year;
    -- the consent of the council of the local fraternity.
  3. Where it is held to be opportune to lengthen the period of formation, it must not be extended to more than a year beyond the time established by the statutes.

Article 42

  1. Profession is the solemn ecclesial act by which the candidate, remembering the call received from Christ, renews the baptismal promises and publicly affirms his or her personal commitment to live the Gospel in the world according to the example of St. Francis and following the Rule of the SFO.
  2. (Rule 23, par. 3)
    Profession incorporates the candidate into the Order and is by its nature a perpetual commitment. It may be preceded by a temporary Profession, renewable annually for no more than three years.*)
    *) See Ritual SFO, n.18.
  3. Profession is accepted by the minister of the local fraternity or by his or her delegate in the name of the Church and of the SFO. The rite is carried out according to the norms of the Ritual.*)
    *) See Ritual SFO, Preface n.12 ff and Part I, Chapter II. Profession, a public and ecclesial act, is received by the minister. If possible, it is done during the Eucharistic Celebration. The priest spiritual assistant is the witness of the Church and of the religious Franciscan Order to which the spiritual care of the fraternity belongs.
  4. Profession does not only commit those professed to the fraternity, but also in the same way it commits the fraternity to be concerned with their human and religious well-being.
  5. The act of Profession is registered and preserved in the records of the fraternity.

Article 43

(Rule 23 par. 3)
The national statutes establish:
-- the minimum age for Profession which, however, may not be less than eighteen years completed;
-- the distinctive sign of membership in the Order (the "Tau" or other Franciscan symbol).

Continuing Formation

Article 44

  1. Begun by the preceding stages, the formation of the brothers and sisters takes place in a permanent and continuous way. It should be understood as an aid in the conversion of each*) and everyone and in the fulfillment of their proper mission in the Church and in society.
    *) See Const. Art. 8, and 1 Celano 103.
  2. The fraternity has the duty to help its own members with programs of continuing formation:
    (Rule 4, par. 3)
    -- to listen to and meditate on the Word of God, "going from Gospel to life and from life to Gospel";
    -- to reflect on events in the Church and in society in the light of faith and with the help of the documents of the teaching Church, consequently taking consistent positions;
    -- to realize and deepen the Franciscan vocation.
  3. The programs of continuing formation should help the brothers and sisters to develop their vocation in fraternity and to follow the life of the Church by means of courses, meetings, and experiences.

Promotion of vocations

Article 45

  1. The promotion of vocations to the Order is a duty of all the brothers and sisters and is a sign of the vitality of the fraternities themselves. The brothers and sisters, convinced of the validity of the Franciscan way of life, should pray that God may give the grace of the Franciscan vocation to new members.
  2. Although nothing can substitute for the witness of each member and of the fraternity, the councils must adopt appropriate means to promote the Secular Franciscan vocation.

TITLE III
THE FRATERNITY AT THE VARIOUS LEVELS

The Local Fraternity

Article 46

  1. (Rule 22)
    The canonical establishment of the local fraternity is the duty of the competent religious major superior at the request of the brothers and sisters concerned and with the prior consultation and collaboration of the council of the higher level to which the new fraternity will be related according to the national statutes.
    The written consent of the bishop is necessary for the canonical establishment of a fraternity outside the houses or churches of the Franciscan religious of the First Order or the TOR.*)
    *) See CCL 312.
  2. For the valid establishment of a local fraternity, at least five professed members are required. The admission and profession of these first brothers and sisters will be received by the council of another local fraternity or by the council of a higher level which will have provided for their formation in appropriate ways. The acts of admission and profession and the decree of establishment are preserved in the records of the fraternity. Copies are sent to the council of the higher level.
  3. If there is not yet a fraternity of the SFO in a nation, it is the duty of the Presidency of the International Council of the SFO to make provision in this regard.

Article 47

  1. (Rule 22)
    Each local fraternity, the primary cell of the one SFO, is entrusted to the pastoral care of the religious Franciscan Family that canonically established it.
  2. A local fraternity may pass to the pastoral care of another religious Franciscan Obedience in the ways provided by the national statutes.*)
    *) See Const. 76 ff.

Article 48

  1. In the case of cessation of a fraternity, the patrimonial goods of the same, the library and the records are acquired by the fraternity of the immediately higher level.
  2. In the case of revival according to the canonical laws, the fraternity will repossess any remaining goods, its own library, and records.

The Fraternity Council

Article 49

  1. The local fraternity is animated and guided by a minister and a council elected by the professed members of the fraternity. Only by way of exception in the first phase of their establishment may fraternities exist without a regular council. The council of a higher level will provide for this lack only for the time strictly needed to insure the beginning of the new fraternity, the formation of its animators and the carrying out of its elections.
  2. The council of the local fraternity is composed of the following offices: minister, vice-minister, secretary, treasurer, and the person responsible for formation. Other offices may be added according to the needs of each fraternity. The spiritual assistant of the fraternity forms part of the council by right.
  3. The fraternity, meeting in an elective assembly or chapter, elects the minister and the other leaders in the way provided by the national statutes.*)
    *) See Const. 76 ff.

Article 50

It is the duty of the council of the local fraternity:
-- to promote the initiatives necessary for fostering fraternal life, for improving the human, Christ- ian, and Franciscan formation of its members and for sustaining their witness and commitment in the world;
-- to make concrete and courageous choices, appropriate for the situation of the fraternity, from among the numerous activities possible in the field of the apostolate.
The duties of the council are also:

  1. to decide on the acceptance and admission to Profession of new brothers and sisters;*)
    *) See Const. 39, 3 and 41,1.
  2. to establish a fraternal dialogue with members in particular difficulties and to adopt consequent measures;
  3. to receive the request for withdrawal and to decide on the suspension of a member from the fraternity;
  4. to decide on the establishment of sections or groups in conformity with the Constitutions and the statutes;
  5. to decide on the destination of available funds and, in general, to deliberate on matters concerning the financial conduct and economic affairs of the fraternity;
  6. to assign duties to the councilors and to the other professed members;
  7. to request from the competent superiors of the First Order and the TOR suitable and prepared religious as assistants;
  8. to perform such other duties as are required by these Constitutions or which are necessary to carry out its proper purposes.

The Offices in the Fraternity

Article 51

  1. While firmly preserving the coresponsibility of the council for the animation and guidance of the fraternity, it is the duty of the minister, who is the person primarily responsible in the fraternity, to ensure that the directions and decisions of the fraternity and of the council are put into practice. He or she will keep the council informed concerning his or her activities.
    The minister also has the following duties:
    1. to call, to preside at, and to direct the meetings of the fraternity and council; to convoke every three years the elective chapter of the fraternity;
    2. to prepare the annual report to be sent to the council of the higher level after it has been approved by the council of the fraternity;
    3. to request, with the consent of the council, the pastoral and fraternal visits, at least once every three years.
    4. to put into effect those acts which the Constitutions refer to his or her competence.
    5. The minister represents the fraternity in all its relations with ecclesiastical and civil authorities. In addition, when the fraternity acquires a juridical personality in the civil order, the minister becomes, when possible, its legal representative.

Article 52

  1. The vice-minister has the following duties:
    1. to collaborate with the minister in a fraternal spirit and to support him in carrying out the duties proper to him;
    2. to exercise those functions which are entrusted to him by the council and/or by the assembly or chapter;
    3. to take the place of the minister in both his competencies and responsibilities in case of absence or temporary incapacity;
    4. to assume the functions of the minister when the office remains vacant.*)
      *) See Const. 81.1.
  2. The secretary has the following duties:
    1. to compile the official acts of the fraternity and of the council and to assure that they are sent to their respective proper recipients;
    2. to see to the updating and preservation of the records and the registers, noting admissions, professions, deaths, withdrawals, and transfers from the fraternity;*)
      *) Each local fraternity is to have at least a register of enrollments (admissions, professions, transfers, deaths, and every other important annotation relative to the individual members), the register of minutes of the council and the register of administration.
    3. to provide for the communication of the more important facts to the various levels and, if appropriate, to provide for their dissemination through the mass media.
  3. The master, or the person responsible for formation, has the following duties:
    1. to coordinate the formative activities according to Arts. 40 ff of these Constitutions;
    2. to instruct and animate the brothers and sisters in the period of formation;*)
      *) See Const. 39 ff. Concerning the participation of the spiritual assistant in formation, see Art. 89,4 of the Constitutions.
    3. to inform the council of the fraternity concerning the suitability of the candidate, prior to admission and profession;*)
      *) See Const. 41.
  4. The treasurer, or bursar, has the following duties:
    1. to guard diligently the contributions received, recording each receipt in the appropriate register, with the date on which it was given, the name of the contributor, or the one from whom it was collected;
    2. to record in the same register the items of expense, specifying the date and the purpose, in conformity with the directions of the fraternity council.
    3. to render an account of his or her administration to the assembly and to the council of the fraternity according to the norms of the national statutes.
  5. The provisions regarding the vice-minister, the secretary and the treasurer apply, with the appropriate adaptations, to all levels.

Participation in the Life of the fraternity

Article 53

  1. (Rule 24)
    The fraternity must offer to its members opportunities for coming together and collaborating through meetings to be held with as great a frequency as allowed by the situation and, with the involvement of all its members.
  2. (Rule 6, Rule 7, Rule 8)
    The fraternity should come together periodically as an ecclesial community to celebrate the Eucharist in a climate which strengthens the fraternal bond and characterizes the identity of the Franciscan Family. Where, for whatever reason, this particular celebration may not be possible, they should participate in the celebration of the larger ecclesial community.
  3. Appropriate initiatives should be adopted according to the directives of the national statutes, to keep those brothers and sisters united to the fraternity who, for valid reasons of health, family, work, or distance, cannot actively participate in community life.

Article 54

  1. In cases where the fraternity of whatever level has property or real estate at its disposal, the procedures necessary for that fraternity to acquire a civil, juridical personality must be followed in conformity with the national statutes.
  2. Based on the respective civil legislation, the national statutes must establish precise criteria for the civil juridical person, for the administration of the material goods and relevant internal controls. They must also contain instructions so that the establishing document may provide for the disposal of its property in case the juridical person ceases to exist.

TRANSFER TO ANOTHER FRATERNITY
WITHDRAWAL, SUSPENSION, AND DISMISSAL FROM THE FRATERNITY
AND FROM THE ORDER

Transfer

Article 55

If a brother or sister, for any reasonable cause, desires transfer to another fraternity, he or she first informs the council of the fraternity to which he or she belongs and then makes the request, including the reasons for the transfer, to the minister of the fraternity to which he or she wishes to belong. The council makes its decision after having received the necessary information in writing from the fraternity of origin.

Temporary Provisions

Article 56

  1. (Rule 23 par. 4)
    Members who find themselves in difficulty may ask, with a formal act, temporary withdrawal from the fraternity. The council will evaluate the request with love and prudence, after a fraternal dialogue between the minister and the person concerned. If the reasons appear to be well founded, after the brother or sister in difficulty has been given time to reconsider, the council agrees to the request.
  2. The repeated and prolonged default in the obligations of the life of the fraternity and other conduct in serious opposition to the Rule ought to be discussed by the council in dialogue with the person at fault. Only in the case of obstinacy or habitual default may the council decide, with a secret vote, to suspend someone. It communicates its decision in writing to the person concerned.
  3. Voluntary withdrawal or the provision for suspension must be noted in the registers of the fraternity. It involves exclusion from the meetings and activities of the fraternity, including the right of active and passive voice, but membership in the Order itself is not affected.

Article 57

  1. In the case of voluntary withdrawal or of suspension from the fraternity, the Secular Franciscan may ask to be readmitted by addressing an appropriate written request to the minister.
  2. After examining the reasons offered by the person involved, the council evaluates whether the causes which led to the withdrawal or suspension can be considered as overcome. If the conclusion is affirmative, it readmits him or her and the decision is recorded in the proceedings of the fraternity.

Definitive Provisions

Article 58

  1. For definitive, voluntary withdrawal from the Order, the person concerned presents the request to the minister of the fraternity who, after a fraternal dialogue, refers it to the council. The latter makes a decision and communicates it in writing to the person concerned. The definitive withdrawal is recorded in the register of the fraternity and communicated to the council of the higher level.
  2. The brother or sister who has publicly rejected the faith, or has defected from ecclesiastical communion, or upon whom an excommunication has been imposed or declared, is dismissed from the Order by the council of the higher level after having been admonished.*)
    *) See CCL 316; 1733 ff.
  3. For other causes, provided that they are grave, external, imputable, and juridically proved, the council of the higher level has the competence to declare dismissal from the Order at the request of the council of the local fraternity of the person concerned. The request must be accompanied by all the documentation relative to the case.
    The council of the higher level will issue the decree of dismissal after having collegially examined the request with the relative documentation and having verified observance of the directives of the Law and of the Constitutions.*)
    *) The preceding Constitutions of 1957, in Art. 147, recommended: "The visitators...and the ministers shall strive to lead the erring members to a better way of life. But, bearing in mind the words and example of our holy Father Francis, they shall always act with charity and with prudence, and never use harsh words or be too strict." This spirit should animate the "observance of the directives of the Law".
  4. The decree of dismissal, in order to become effective, must be confirmed by the national council to whom all the documentation will be sent.

Article 59

Anyone who considers himself aggrieved by a measure adopted against him may appeal within three months to the council of the level above the one that adopted the decision and, in successive instances, to further levels up to the Presidency of the International Council of the SFO, and, as the last instance, to the Holy See.*)
*) See CCL 1732 - 1739. The rights of the person are guaranteed at all levels by the universal law of the Church and by these Constitutions.

Article 60

What is said in these Constitutions with respect to the local fraternities is valid, to the extent that it is applicable, for the personal fraternities also.

The Regional Fraternity

Article 61

  1. The regional fraternity is the organic union of all the local fraternities existing in a territory or which can be integrated into a natural unity, either by geographic proximity, or by common problems and pastoral realities. While respecting the unity of the SFO and with the collegial integration of the various Franciscan Obediences which may provide spiritual assistance within the area, it assures the link between the local fraternities and the national fraternity.
  2. It is for the national council to compose the regional fraternity according to the Constitutions and to the national statutes. The competent religious superiors, from whom spiritual assistance must be sought, should be informed of it.
  3. The regional fraternity has its own seat and is animated and guided by a minister, or president, and by a council who are duly elected. The national statutes define its structure and duties.

Article 62

The regional council has the following duties:

  1. to prepare the celebration of the elective chapter;
  2. to promote, animate, and coordinate the life and activities of the SFO and its insertion into the local Church within the regional area;
  3. to elaborate the program of the SFO within the region and to publicize it among the local fraternities, according to the directives of the national council and in collaboration with it;
  4. to communicate the directives of the national council and of the local Church to the local fraternities;
  5. to provide for the formation of those responsible for animation;
  6. to offer to local fraternities activities which support all their formative and operative needs;
  7. to discuss and approve the annual report to the national council;
  8. to make decisions concerning the fraternal visitation of the local fraternities when the circumstances recommend it, even when not requested;
  9. to make decisions regarding the disbursement of available funds and, in general, to deliberate on matters regarding the financial conduct and the economic affairs of the regional fraternity;
  10. to perform such other duties as are indicated by the Constitutions or necessary to achieve its own aims.

Article 63

  1. While firmly preserving the co-responsibility of the council for the animation and guidance of the regional fraternity it is the duty of the minister, who has the primary responsibility, to see that the directions and decisions of the council are put into practice. He or she will keep the council informed concerning his or her activities.
  2. In addition, the regional minister has the duty:
    1. to convoke and preside at the meetings of the regional council; to convoke the regional elective chapter every three years;
    2. to preside at and to confirm the elections of the local fraternities, personally or through a delegate who is a member of the regional council;
    3. to make fraternal visitations of the local fraternities, personally or through a proper delegate who is a member of the council;
    4. to participate in the meetings called by the national council;
    5. to represent the fraternity in the civil order whenever it has acquired a juridical personality;
    6. to prepare the annual report to the national council;
    7. to request the pastoral visitation and the fraternal visitation with the consent of the council, at least once every three years.

Article 64

The regional chapter is the representative organ of all the fraternities existing in a region, with elective and deliberative power.
The national statutes provide for the formalities of convocation, composition, frequency and competencies.

The National Fraternity

Article 65

  1. The national fraternity is the organic union of the local fraternities existing within the territory of states or of national entities which are joined and coordinated among themselves through regional fraternities, wherever they exist.
  2. It is the duty of the Presidency of the International Council to provide for the establishment of new national units upon request and in dialogue with the councils of the fraternities concerned. The competent religious superiors of the nation, of whom spiritual assistance will be requested, should be informed.
  3. The national fraternity:
    -- is governed by its own statutes;
    -- has its own seat;
    -- is animated and guided by a minister or president and by a council who are duly elected.

Article 66

The national council has the duty:
  1. to prepare the celebration of the national elective chapter, according to its own statutes;
  2. to make known and to promote the Secular Franciscan spirituality in its own nation;
  3. to decide upon programs of annual activities of a national character;
  4. to seek, indicate, publish, and distribute the necessary instruments for the formation of the Secular Franciscans;
  5. to animate and coordinate the activities of the regional councils;
  6. to maintain the connection with the Presidency of the International Council SFO;
  7. to elect the national representative to the International Council and to assume the responsibility for the expenses which he or she must bear to carry out this commission;
  8. to discuss and approve the annual report to the International Council;
  9. to see to the presence of the SFO in the ecclesial bodies at the national level;
  10. to make decisions concerning the fraternal visitation to the councils of the regional and local fraternities when the circumstances require it, even if not requested;
  11. to make decisions regarding the disbursement of the available funds and, in general, regarding the economic affairs of the fraternity;
  12. to perform such other duties as are indicated by the Constitutions or necessary to achieve its own aims.

Article 67

  1. While firmly preserving the co-responsibility of the council in the animation and guidance of the national fraternity, it belongs to the minister, who has the primary responsibility, to see that the directions and decisions of the council are put into practice and to inform the council concerning his or her activities.
  2. The national minister has the duty:
    1. to convoke and preside at the meetings of the national council; to convoke the national elective chapter every three years, according to the national statutes;
    2. to direct and coordinate with the national leaders the activities at the national level;
    3. to give a report to the national council and chapter on the life and activity of the SFO in his own country;
    4. to represent the national fraternity in contacts with ecclesiastical and civil authorities. When the national fraternity has a civil juridical personality, its legal representation belongs to the minister;
    5. to preside at and to confirm the regional elections, personally or through a delegate who is a member of the national council;
    6. to make fraternal visitations of the regional councils, personally or through a proper delegate who is a member of the national council;
    7. to request the pastoral visitation and the fraternal visitation with the consent of the council, at least once every three years.

Article 68

  1. The national chapter is the representative organ of the fraternities existing within the confines of a state or nation. It has legislative, deliberative, and elective powers.
    In conformity with the Rule and the Constitutions, it may make legislative decisions and produce norms valid within its national confines. The national statutes determine the composition, the frequency, the competencies, and the method of convoking the national chapter.
  2. The national statutes may envisage other forms of meetings and assemblies to promote the life and apostolate at the national level.

The International Fraternity

Article 69

  1. The International Fraternity is constituted by the organic union of all the Catholic Secular Franciscan fraternities in the world. It is identical to the SFO. It has its own juridical personality within the Church. It is organized and it functions in conformity with the Constitutions and its own Statutes.
  2. The International Fraternity is guided and animated by the Minister or President with the International Council (CIOFS), that has its seat in Rome, Italy.

Article 70

  1. The International Council is composed of the following members, elected according to the norms of the Constitutions and its own Statutes:
    -- professed brothers and sisters of the SFO;
    -- Franciscan religious of the First Order and the TOR who are spiritual assistants of the SFO;
    -- Representatives of the Franciscan Youth.*)
    *) See Const. 97,2.
    In addition, the four General Assistants to the SFO form part of the International Council.
  2. The Presidency of the International Council SFO is constituted within the International Council of which it forms an integral part.
  3. The International Council meets in the SFO General Chapter with legislative, deliberative, and elective powers.
  4. The general elective chapter is celebrated every six years according to the norms established by the Constitutions and by its own Statutes.

Article 71

The purposes and duties of the International Council SFO are:
  1. to promote and sustain the evangelical life according to the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi within the secular condition of the faithful living throughout the world;
  2. to strengthen the bond of communion, collaboration, and sharing among the national fraternities; to make the interdependence and reciprocity of the SFO a reality at the various levels of fraternity; to increase the sense of unity of the SFO with respect to the pluralism of the persons and groups, and to increase the sense of awareness of a particular responsibility with respect to that unity;
  3. to harmonize the sound traditions, according to the original nature of the SFO, with advances in theological, pastoral, and legislative fields, with a view to a specific evangelical Franciscan formation;
  4. to contribute, in line with the tradition of the SFO, to the spreading of the ideas and initiatives which are valuable for promoting the availability of Secular Franciscans in the life of the Church and of society;
  5. to participate in providing fraternal aid in the clarification and resolution of grave and urgent problems of the SFO, in a spirit of service, through its own presidency, according to the circumstances and its own prudent evaluation.
  6. to strengthen reciprocal relationships of collaboration between the SFO and the other components of the Franciscan Family at the world level;
  7. to collaborate with the organizations and associations which defend the same values.

Article 72

  1. The Presidency of the International Council SFO is composed of;
    -- the Minister General;
    -- the Vice-Minister;
    -- the International Councilors elected to represent the linguistic areas according to the norms of the Statutes of the International Council SFO;
    -- a member of the Franciscan Youth;
    -- the General Assistants of the SFO.

Article 73

The duties and tasks of the Presidency, as the executive organ of the International Council, are:
  1. to coordinate, animate, and guide the SFO at the international level;
  2. to see that the decisions of the General Chapter are carried out;
  3. to attend to the resolution of urgent problems that arise relative to the greater good of the SFO and not foreseen by the Constitutions and the Statutes of the International Council SFO. It informs the national council concerned and the next General Chapter of its action.

Article 74

  1. While firmly preserving the co-responsibility of the Presidency in the guidance and animation of the International Council, it belongs to the Minister General, who has the primary responsibility, to see that the directions and decisions of the International Council and of the Presidency are put into practice and to inform them concerning his or her activities.
  2. In addition, the Minister General has the duty:
    1. to convoke and preside at the meetings of the Presidency according to its own Statutes;
    2. to convoke the meetings of the General Chapter with the consent of the Presidency, and to preside at them.
    3. to be a visible and effective sign of the communion and life-giving reciprocity between the SFO and the Ministers General of the Franciscan First Order and the TOR, among whom he or she represents the SFO, and to preserve the bond with the Conference of General Assistants;
    4. to represent the SFO at the world level before ecclesiastical and civil authorities;
    5. to make the fraternal visitation to the national councils, personally or through a delegate who is a member of the International Council SFO;
    6. to preside at the elections of the National Councils, personally or through a delegate who is a member of the International Council SFO.
    7. to request, with the consent of the Presidency, the pastoral visitation by the Union of the Ministers General of the First Order and the TOR;
    8. to intervene in urgent cases, informing the Presidency of them;
    9. to sign the official documents of the SFO;
    10. to exercise the civil rights of the International Council, with the consent of the Presidency, and jointly with another councilor of the Presidency designated by the same.

Article 75

The specific duties of the International councilors are determined by the Statutes of the International Council SFO.

TITLE IV
ELECTION TO AND TERMINATION OF OFFICES

Elections

Article 76

  1. The elections at the various levels will take place according to the norms of the law of the Church*) and of the Constitutions. The convocation should be carried out at least one month in advance, indicating the place, the day, and the time of the election.
    *) See CCL 164 ff.
  2. The elective assembly, or chapter, will be presided over by the minister of the council of the immediately higher level, or by his or her delegate, who confirms the election.
    In the local and regional fraternities, the president or the delegate to preside is not to be a member of the fraternity in which the elections take place.
    The spiritual assistant of the immediately higher level or his delegate is to be present as a witness of the communion with the First Order and the TOR.
    A representative of the Union of the Ministers General of the First Order and the TOR presides at and confirms the elections of the International Presidency.
  3. The president of the chapter and the assistant of the higher level do not have the right to vote.
  4. For every elective assembly a secretary and two scrutineers are to be designated.*)
    *) See CCL 173.

Article 77

  1. In the local fraternity the perpetually professed of the same fraternity have active and passive voice. The temporarily professed and the spiritual assistant have only active voice.
  2. At the other levels, the following have active voice: the members of the outgoing council, the representatives of the immediately lower level, of the Franciscan Youth, if professed, and of the spiritual assistants. It is the competence of the particular statutes to establish more concrete norms for the application of the preceding norm, taking care to assure the broadest elective base. The perpetually professed Secular Franciscans of the corresponding area have passive voice.

Article 78

  1. An absolute majority of the votes of those present, cast in secret, is required for the elections of the minister. After two inconclusive ballots, the voting continues between the two candidates who have obtained the largest number of votes or, in case there are more than two, between the two candidates who are oldest by profession. If there is still a tie after the third ballot, the older by profession will be considered elected.
  2. The election of the vice-minister proceeds in the same manner.
  3. For the election of the councilors, after a first ballot without an absolute majority, a relative majority of the votes of those present, cast in secret, is sufficient, unless the particular statutes require a greater majority.
  4. The secretary announces the result of the elections; the president confirms the election according to the Ritual*) if all has been carried out properly and those elected have accepted their office.
    *) See Ritual SFO, Part II, Chapt. II.

Article 79

  1. The ministers may be elected for two consecutive terms of three years each. When exceptional circumstances require it, for a third and final successive election to the office of minister, a majority of two-thirds of the votes of those present, which must be obtained on the first ballot, will be necessary, as well as the confirmation by the president of the elective assembly.
  2. The same norms are valid for the election of the Minister General of the SFO, whose term is six years.*)
    *) See Const. 70,4.
  3. The councilors may be elected for additional successive terms of three years. Beginning with the third successive election, a majority of two-thirds of the votes of those present will be necessary.
    This should be carried out in such a way that after two terms of three years, at least one third of the council is replaced.
  4. The same norms are valid for the election of the councilors of the Presidency of the International Council SFO, whose term is six years.
  5. The council of the higher level has the right and duty to invalidate the elections and to call them anew in all cases of inobservance of the prescribed norms.

Article 80

The particular statutes may include further directives concerning elections, as long as they are not contrary to the Constitutions.

PROVISIONS FOR VACANCY, RESIGNATION, AND DISMISSAL

Vacant Offices

Article 81

  1. When the office of minister remains vacant as a result of death, accepted resignation, removal, absence, or other impediment of a definitive character, the vice-minister assumes the functions until the end of the term for which he or she was elected, if two years have passed since the election; at the international level, four years must have passed. Otherwise, the vice-minister assumes the functions of the minister until the elective chapter which he or she must convoke with the consent of the council within six months of the date on which the office became vacant.
    One of the councilors is elected to the office of vice-minister by the council of the fraternity for the same period.
  2. When the office of councilor becomes vacant, the council will proceed to substitute for him or her in conformity with the proper statutes. The substitution is valid until the elective chapter.

Incompatible Offices

Article 82

The following are incompatible:
  1. the office of minister at two different levels;
  2. the offices of minister, vice-minister, secretary and treasurer at the same level.

Resignation of Office

Article 83

  1. The resignation in chapter of the minister of whatever level must be accepted by the same chapter.
    The resignation of the minister, outside of the chapter, must be presented to the proper council. If the resignation is accepted, it must be confirmed by the minister of the higher level*) and, for the Minister General, by the Union of the Ministers General of the First Order and the TOR.
    *) See Const. 76; 78. The minister of the higher level presides at and confirms the elections.
  2. The resignation of other offices is presented to the minister and to his or her council, who are competent to accept the resignation.

Removal

Article 84

  1. In the case in which the minister does not fulfill his or her duties, the council concerned should inform the minister and the council of the higher level whose competence it is to examine the case and, if required, to authorize the election of a new minister.
  2. For a serious, public, and proved reason, the minister of a higher level, with the consent of his council, manifested by a secret vote, may order the removal of a minister of a lower level.
  3. The removal from the other offices of the council, when there is a serious reason, belongs to the minister of the council to which they belong, with the consent of that council expressed by a secret ballot.
  4. A suspending recourse may be interposed against the removal, within an effective period of thirty days, before the council of the level immediately higher to that which imposed the sanction; then, in succession, of the other levels of the Order.
  5. The case in which the Minister General is to be removed is in the competence of the Union of the Ministers General of the First Order and the TOR.

TITLE V
SPIRITUAL AND PASTORAL ASSISTANCE OF THE SFO

Article 85

  1. As an integral part of the Franciscan Family and called to live the charism of Francis within the secular dimension, the SFO has particular and close relations to the First Order and the TOR.*)
    *) From Franciscan history and from the Constitutions of the First Order and the TOR, it is clearly evident that these Orders recognize that they are committed to the spiritual and pastoral assistance of the SFO in virtue of their common origin and charism and by the will of the Church. See Constitutions OFM, 60; Constitutions OFM Conv., 116; Constitutions OFM Cap., 95; Constitutions TOR, 157; Rule of the Third Order of Pope Leo XIII, 3,3; Rule approved by Paul VI, 26.
  2. The spiritual and pastoral care of the SFO, entrusted by the Church to the Franciscan First Order and the TOR, is the duty above all of their Ministers General and Provincial. The altius moderamen, of which canon 3O3 speaks, belongs to them. The purpose of the altius moderamen is to guarantee the fidelity of the SFO to the Franciscan charism, communion with the Church and union with the Franciscan Family, values which represent a vital commitment for the Secular Franciscans.*)
    *) See Rule SFO, Art. 6; Ritual of the SFO, II, 29 ff.

Article 86

  1. The Ministers General and Provincials exercise their office with respect to the SFO through:
    -- the establishment of fraternities;
    -- the pastoral visits;
    -- the spiritual assistance to the fraternities at the various levels.
    They may exercise this office personally or through their own delegate.
  2. This service of the religious ministers is a valid help, but does not substitute for the secular minsters and councilors to whom belong the guidance, coordination, and animation of the frater-nities at the various levels.

Article 87

  1. For all that concerns the SFO as a whole, the altius moderamen must be exercised by the Ministers General collegially.
  2. It belongs to the Union of the Ministers General of the First Order and the TOR:
    -- to care for the relations with the Holy See concerning the approval of the legislative or liturgical documents, which approval is the competence of the Holy See;
    -- to visit the International Council of the SFO and its Council of the Presidency.*)
    *) See Const. 94, 2-3.
    -- to confirm the election of the Minister General of the SFO;
    -- to confirm the Statutes of the International Council of the SFO.*)
    *) See Const. 6,1.
  3. Each Minister General, within the area of his own competence, sees to the interest of the religious for the SFO and to their preparation for service to it according to the respective Constitutions and the Constitutions of the SFO.

Article 88

In the exercise of their office, the religious ministers provincial take into account the organization of the SFO.
The ministers provincial of the different Obediences with jurisdiction in the same territory shall seek collegially the most suitable method of developing their own mission in relation to the SFO.

Article 89

  1. By virtue of the vital reciprocity between religious and seculars of the Franciscan Family and by virtue of the responsibilities of the major superiors, spiritual assistance, as a fundamental element of communion, must be assured to all the fraternities of the SFO. This service is provided by spiritual assistants, appointed according to the norms of the present Constitutions and the statutes for the spiritual assistance to the SFO.
  2. It is the right and duty of the council of the fraternity at each level to request suitable and prepared assistants.
    The council of the fraternity at each level requests suitable and prepared assistants from the competent superiors of the First Order and the TOR, who have the competency to appoint, having heard the council of the fraternity concerned.*)
    *) See Const. 91.
  3. The spiritual assistant, who is normally a Franciscan religious, ought to be a witness of Franciscan spirituality and of the fraternal affection of the religious towards the Secular Franciscans. He ought also to be a bond of communion between his Order and the SFO.
  4. The spiritual assistant is a member of the council of the fraternity to which he gives assistance and collaborates with it in all its activities. It is the particular task of the assistant to cooperate in the initial and continuing formation of the brothers and sisters.
  5. The spiritual assistant does not exercise the right to vote in financial questions.

Article 90

  1. The General Assistants are appointed by the respective Ministers General after consultation with the Presidency Council of the International Council SFO. The General Assistants give their service to the International Council and to its Presidency and they collegially see to the spiritual assistance to the SFO as a whole.
  2. At the national level, norms for spiritual assistance should be established, which are agreed upon by the interobediential union of the ministers provincial with the national council of the SFO. The national assistants are appointed by the respective Conferences of Superiors (or by the Superior, if there is only one within the nation), having heard the national council. The national assistants act collegially in their service to the national council and in the coordination of the regional assistants at the national level.
  3. The spiritual assistance to the national fraternity is guided and coordinated by the college of the National Assistants (or by the National Assistant) according to the Constitutions and its own statutes.
  4. The spiritual assistance to the regional fraternity is guided and coordinated by the college of the regional assistants (or by the regional assistant) according to the Constitutions and its own statutes.
  5. In the fraternities established in Franciscan churches or in Franciscan houses, fraternal unity should be promoted between the two communities, the religious and the secular.

Article 91

  1. The spiritual assistant is to be a religious Franciscan priest, belonging to the First Order or the TOR.
  2. Priests belonging to other Franciscan Institutes or diocesan priests belonging to the SFO may be delegated to assist the fraternities, given the authorization of the respective Superior or of the diocesan Ordinary.
  3. To promote the life of the fraternities and in particular when it is not possible to give a spiritual assistant to the fraternity, or when one assistant must attend to many fraternities, the Franciscan major superior, having heard the council of the fraternity concerned, may request the collaboration of suitable and prepared animators, men and women, religious and lay, giving priority to the witness of life and to the capacity to communicate Franciscan spirituality. The Superior, or the provincial assistant, remains responsible for the spiritual assistance as well as for the pastoral and sacramental service to the fraternity.
  4. Exceptionally, and so that the fraternity has adequate pastoral care, the Franciscan major superior may delegate the spiritual assistance of the local fraternity to a diocesan priest or to a religious priest who is not a Franciscan, given the authorization of the respective Superior in all cases.

TITLE VI
THE FRATERNAL VISIT AND THE PASTORAL VISIT

Article 92

  1. (Rule 26)
    The purpose of both the pastoral and fraternal visits is to revive the evangelical Franciscan spirit, to assure fidelity to the charism and to the Rule, to offer help to fraternity life, to reinforce the bond of the unity of the Order, and to promote its most effective insertion into the Franciscan Family and the Church.
  2. In the visits to the local fraternities and to the councils at the various levels, the visitor will verify the evangelical and apostolic vitality, the observance of the Rule and Constitutions, and the insertion of the fraternities into the Order and into the Church.
  3. In the visits to the local fraternities and to the councils at the various levels, the visitor will communicate the object and the program of the visit to the interested council in ample time. He or she will examine the registers and the acts, including those relative to the election of the council and to the administration of goods. He will draw up a report of the visit carried out, appending it to the acts in the appropriate register of the fraternity visited, and will inform the council by whom the visit was requested.
  4. In the visit to the local fraternity, the visitor will meet with the entire fraternity and with the groups and sections into which it is divided. He or she will give special attention to the brothers and sisters in the period of formation and to those brothers and sisters who may request a personal meeting. Where required, he or she will proceed to the fraternal correction of the shortcomings which they had to confront.
  5. If it is useful for the service of the fraternity, the two visitors, religious and secular, may make the visit at the same time, agreeing beforehand on the program, in a way most consonant with the mission of each of them.
  6. The pastoral and fraternal visits, carried out by the immediately higher level, do not hinder the visited fraternity in maintaining the right to appeal to the council or to the religious superior of a higher level, informing the religious or lay leader who carried out the preceding visit.

The Fraternal Visit

Article 93

  1. The fraternal visit is a moment of communion, an expression of the service and concrete interest of the lay leaders at the various levels, so that the fraternity may grow and be faithful to its vocation.*)
    *) See Const. 51, 1c; 63, 2g; 67, 2g.
  2. The minister of the fraternity of whatever level, with the consent of the council, should request a fraternal visit from the minister of the immediately higher level at least every three years.*)
    *) When the visit is not requested as it should be, see Const. 62 h; 66 j.
  3. In this spirit, the visitor will promote dialogue and collaboration among the brothers and sisters and will provide stimulation towards the concrete realization of the Franciscan options, of which the Secular Franciscans ought to be witnesses and promoters within society.
  4. Among the different initiatives to achieve the purpose of the visit, the visitor will give special attention:
    -- to the validity of the formation, both initial and permanent;
    -- to the relations entertained with other fraternities at the various levels, with the Franciscan Youth, and with the entire Franciscan Family.
    -- to the observance of the directives and of the guidelines of the International Council SFO and of the other councils;
    -- to the presence in the local Church.
  5. The visitor will check the register of the accounts and every document pertaining to the property of the fraternity and, if applicable, the condition of the juridical personality in the civil order, including the fiscal aspects.
    Wherever he or she deems it opportune, the visitor will obtain the assistance of a competent person in these aspects.
  6. The visitor will check the records of the election of the council. He or she will evaluate the quality of the service offered to the fraternity by the minister and by the other leaders, and will study with them the solution to problems which may arise.
    If, for whatever reason, he or she should find that their service is not sufficiently developed to meet the needs of the fraternity, the visitor will promote appropriate initiatives, having taken into account the provisions concerning resignation and removal from office*), given special circumstances.
    *) See Const. 83; 84.
  7. The visitor may not carry out the visit of his or her own fraternity, nor of the council of another level of which he or she is a member.

The Pastoral Visit

Article 94

  1. The pastoral visit is an expression of the altius moderamen and of the pastoral care of the SFO entrusted by the Church to the First Order and the TOR. It is carried out in the name of the Church and serves to guarantee and promote the observance of the Rule and the Constitutions and fidelity to the Franciscan charism.
  2. The Minister General of the SFO with the consent of the Presidency Council requests the visit from the Union of the Ministers General at least every six years.
  3. The national minister with the consent of the council requests the visit from the Conference of General Assistants at least every three years.
  4. The ministers of the regional and local fraternities, with the consent of the respective councils, request the visit from the religious superiors according to their own statutes at least every three years.
  5. For urgent and serious reasons or in case of failure on the part of the minister or the council to request it, the pastoral visit may be carried out upon the initiative of the competent religious superior.

Article 95

  1. The visitor will carry out his task with respect to the organization and the law proper to the SFO.
  2. Having verified the canonical establishment of the fraternity, he will concern himself with the relations between the fraternity and its spiritual assistant and the local Church. He will meet the pastors (bishop or parish priest) when this is opportune for fostering communion and service for building up the Church.
  3. He will promote collaboration and a sense of co-responsibility among the secular leaders and the religious assistants. He is to examine the quality of the spiritual assistance given to the visited fraternity, encourage the spiritual assistants in their service and promote their continuing spiritual and pastoral formation.
  4. He will give special attention to programs, methods and experiences of formation, to the liturgical and prayer life, and to the apostolic activities of the fraternity.

TITLE VII
THE FRANCISCAN YOUTH

Article 96

  1. The SFO, by virtue of its very vocation, ought to be ready to share its experience of evangelical life with the youth who feel attracted to St. Francis of Assisi and to seek the means of adequately presenting it to them.
  2. The Franciscan Youth, as understood by these Constitutions and in so far as the SFO considers itself to be particularly responsible for it, is formed by those young people who feel called by the Holy Spirit to share the experience of the Christian life in fraternity, in the light of the message of St. Francis of Assisi, deepening their own vocation within the context of the Secular Franciscan Order.
  3. The members of the Franciscan Youth consider the Rule of the SFO as an inspirational document for the growth of their own Christian and Franciscan vocation either individually or in a group. After a suitable period of formation, of at least one year, they confirm this option with a personal pledge before God and in the presence of the brothers and sisters.
  4. The members of the Franciscan Youth who wish to make profession in the SFO should satisfy the requirements of the Rule, the Constitutions, and the Ritual of the SFO.
  5. The Franciscan Youth has a specific organization, methods of formation, and teaching methods adequate for the needs of the world of youth, according to the existing realities in the various countries. Wherever the Franciscan Youth of a particular country intends to give itself its own statutes, these should be presented by the national council of the SFO to the Presidency of the International Council SFO, for approval.
  6. The Franciscan Youth, as a component of the Franciscan Family, requests spiritual, pastoral, and fraternal assistance from the religious superiors and from the competent secular leaders.

Article 97

  1. The SFO will seek the most appropriate means to promote the vitality and the spreading of the Franciscan Youth. It will stand by the youth to encourage them and to procure the means which can help them to progress in their journey of human and spiritual growth.
  2. To promote a close communion with the SFO, the leaders of the Franciscan Youth at the international and national levels and at the level immediately below are to be professed Secular Franciscan Youth.
  3. A representative of the Franciscan Youth, who must be a professed Secular Franciscan, is to be designated to form part of the SFO councils at the various levels; analogously, a representative of the SFO, designated by the respective council, is to form part of the council of the Franciscan Youth at the same level.
    In addition, where a Franciscan Youth group exists whose members are not professed Secular Franciscans, the council of the local fraternity should invite the respective representative to participate in the activity of the council, without the right to vote.

TITLE VIII
IN COMMUNION WITH THE FRANCISCAN FAMILY AND THE CHURCH

Article 98

  1. (Rule 1)
    Secular Franciscans should seek to live in life-giving reciprocal communion with all the members of the Franciscan Family. They should be ready to promote common initiatives or participate in them with the religious of the First, Second and Third Orders, with Secular Institutes, and with other lay ecclesial groups that recognize St. Francis as a model and inspiration in order to collaborate in spreading the Gospel, removing the causes of marginalization, and serving the cause of peace.
  2. They must cultivate a special affection, which expresses itself in concrete initiatives of fraternal communion, towards the sisters of the contemplative life who, like St. Clare of Assisi, bear witness in the Church and in the world and by whose mediation they await the abundance of grace for the fraternity and for the works of the apostolate.

Article 99

  1. (Rule 6)
    As a living part of the people of God and conforming themselves to the Seraphic Father, the Secular Franciscans, "living in full communion with the Pope and the bishops", should seek to know and deepen the doctrine proposed by the teaching Church through its more important documents and they should be attentive to the presence of the Holy Spirit who vivifies the faith and charity of the people of God.*) They should collaborate in the initiatives promoted by the Holy See, in a particular way in those areas in which they are called to work by virtue of their Secular Franciscan vocation.
    *) Lumen Gentium 12.
  2. The SFO, as an international public association, is connected by a special bond to the Roman Pontiff from whom it has received the approval of its Rule and the confirmation of its mission in the Church and in the world.

Article 100

  1. The vocation to "rebuild" the Church ought to induce the brothers and sisters sincerely to love and to live the union with the local Church in which they develop their own vocation and realize their apostolic commitment, aware that in the diocese the Church of Christ is truly functioning.*)
    *) Christus Dominus 11; CCL 396; See 2 Celano 10, and 1 Celano 18.
  2. The Secular Franciscans should fulfill with dedication the duties with which they are occupied in their relations to the local Church. They should lend their help to activities of the apostolate as well as to the social activities existing in the diocese.*) In the spirit of service, they should make themselves present, as the fraternity of the SFO, within the life of the diocese. They should be ready to collaborate with other ecclesial groups and to participate in pastoral councils.
    *) See CCL 311.
  3. Fidelity to their own charism, Franciscan and secular, and the witness of building fraternity sincerely and openly are their principal services to the Church, which is the community of love. They should be recognized in it by their "being", from which their mission springs.

Article 101

  1. The Secular Franciscans should collaborate with the bishops and follow their directions in so far as they are the moderators of the ministry of the Word and of the Liturgy and the coordinators of the various forms of apostolate in the local Church.*)
    *) See CCL 394; 756; 775.
  2. The fraternities are subject to the vigilance of the Ordinary in so far as they perform their activities within the local Churches.*)
    *) See CCL 305; 392.

Article 102

  1. The fraternities established in a parish church should seek to cooperate in the animation of the parochial community, in the liturgy and in fraternal relations. They should integrate themselves into the pastoral apostolate as a whole, with preference for those activities more congenial to the secular Franciscan tradition and spirituality.
  2. In the parishes entrusted to Franciscan religious, the fraternities constitute the mediation and the secular witness of the Franciscan charism in the parochial community through their exercise of the fruitful life-giving reciprocity. Therefore, united with the religious, they see to the spreading of the gospel message and of the Franciscan lifestyle.

Article 103

Remaining faithful to their own identity, the fraternities will take care to make the most of each occasion for prayer, formation, and active collaboration with other ecclesial groups. They should welcome with pleasure those who, without belonging to the SFO, wish to share its experiences and activities.

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