Pope Francis Unexpectedly Meets Franciscans of the Immaculate

Last year we reported the problem the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate had experienced with the placing of Fr. Volpi from the Vatican to oversee the Order. Now, Deo Gratias, there is some hope that an end of the trouble is in sight. This is an adapted and slightly abbreviated report from ‘Eponymous Flower’

adsd(Rome) A surprising encounter witnessed Pope Francis last Sunday, 6th April, attend the Roman city parish of San Gregorio Magno in the Magliana suburbs, and come across the Franciscans of the Immaculate, whose (until recently) blossoming order’s suppression has been overshadowed by the current papacy.

The Salus Populi Romani icon is particularly dear to Pope Francis. On the morning after his election, he left the Vatican unannounced to head down to the Patriarchal Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore and to venerate the Mother of God before the holy image.

Pope Given a Copy of the Icon of Mary Salus Populi Romani

At the end of Holy Mass in the Magliana, Pope Francis was unexpectedly presented with a copy of the miraculous icon. Still less did the Church leader expect to encounter in his parish visit the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate Conception, or at least the family of Father Stefano Maria Manelli, the founder of this extraordinary order, that was like a beacon of hope in the Catholic religious landscape of the West until the summer of the previous year. Since then, the Order has experienced some dark times.

Family of Founder Manelli Presented to the Pope

After the Holy Mass members of the Manelli family, most notably the couple Pio and Anna Maria Manelli, presented the Pope with the icon in memory of the parents or grandparents Settimio and Licia Manelli. Settimio (1886-1978) and Licia Manelli (1907-2004) are the parents of 21 children. A son, Father Stefano Maria Manelli,  is the founder of the religious family of the Franciscans of the Immaculate. He was the Superior General until the summer of 2013. His younger brother Pio, named after Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, who was the spiritual father of his parents, lives with his large family in the parish which Pope Francis visited. Pio and Anna Maria Manelli have nine children. Six of them belong to the Order founded by her uncle Stefano Maria. Two sons are in the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, four daughters Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate. The parents or grandparents, Settimio and Licia Manelli, were recognised by the Church as servants of God. Their beatification process is underway.

The Manelli family is firmly rooted in the Roman suburban parish, which the Pope visited. Last October 30th Father Stefano Manelli offered a Mass of Thanksgiving for his ordination 58 years ago in the parish church of San Gregorio Magno along with many brothers and sisters of his Order. It was a celebration that had to be expressly approved by the Apostolic Commissioner, Father Fidenzio Volpi. After this came the dismissal of Father Manelli as Superior General of the entire Order. Father Volpi was placed by the Congregation of Religious as a delegate of the Holy See to oversee the management of the whole Order.

Traditional Rite and Love of Tradition Was the Young Religious  Order’s Undoing

There has been a radical intervention against the flowering of this Order of two liturgical rites, with a strong inclination to Catholic tradition, as a central feature of the Order. The current prohibition against celebrating the traditional rite, promoted by Pope Benedict with the benevolence of the Church, has since disturbed its relationship with the reigning Pope.

It is still unclear why this young religious Order with many vocations was placed under provisional administration. The Congregation of Religious appears to have had clear misgivings with the Order for the sole reason that it had changed from celebrating the ‘new’ rite to the ‘old’ rite, and unlike most religious in the West, could attract many vocations.

Daughter in Law of the Servant of God Painted Icon for the Pope

It was the parish priest of San Gregorio Magno who presented the Manelli family to the Pope and drew attention to the servants of God, Settimio and Licia Manelli. When he introduced Pio and Anna Maria Manelli, he said: “Having a large family in the parish, is a special gift nowadays. In addition, this family has produced many priests and religious. A blessing that should not remain hidden.”

Appeal to the Pope to Get the Order of St. Francis of the Immaculate “Out From the Crypt”

In the ensuing personal conversation they begged Pope Francis, if the Franciscans of the Immaculate could again be “taken from the crypt”, to which the Order has been exiled by the actions of the Congregation of Religious. It was an allusion to the preaching of the Pope, who had previously spoken in his Homily on the Raising of Lazarus from the dead: the Lord commanded, “rise out of the grave”.

Anna Maria Manelli, the daughter-in-law of the Servant of God and sister-in-law of the Founder of the Franciscans of the Immaculate, had made the copy of the icon of Mary herself. Together with her husband, Pio, she handed the Pope a copy of the icon Salus Populi Romani.

“Soon, Soon”

Pope Francis smiled, visibly surprised at the unexpected confrontation with the question of the Franciscans of the Immaculate, patted the hands of the couple in thanks for the icon, and said, “Soon, soon”.

“What exactly this ‘soon’ means, one does not know,” said Sandro Magister the Vaticanist. At least it is the most optimistic hope for an early and peaceful end to the provisional administration of the Order.

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11 Responses to Pope Francis Unexpectedly Meets Franciscans of the Immaculate

  1. GEOFF KIERNAN says:

    If anyone had said to me 40/50 years ago that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Mass of the Angels, the Mass of all time. the Mass of the Saints and the martyrs would in 40/50 years be banned or even called into question I and every Catholic worth his salt would have laughed them out of existence. It was inconceivable that such a thing would/could happen. So don’t tell me that these are not diabolical times. And the ban came or originated from the Vatican. What was that, that Benedict said about the disintegration of the Liturgy being the prime cause of the State of the Church today? …Geoff Kiernan Western Australia

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  2. Tom Fisher says:

    If anyone had said to me 40/50 years ago that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Mass of the Angels, the Mass of all time. the Mass of the Saints and the martyrs would in 40/50 years be banned or even called into question

    It was called into question before 1974 surely?

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  3. GEOFF KIERNAN says:

    TOM: You will have to clarify your comment. G.KIERNAN

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  4. Mimi says:

    He’s merely quibbling with your mathematics, Geoff, and not addressing your point.

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  5. Tom Fisher says:

    He’s merely quibbling with your mathematics, Geoff, and not addressing your point.

    Mimi, the reason I posted that quibble was that I think it is hardly sensible to suggest that questioning the liturgy of (broadly speaking) the period between Trent and Vatican II is a recent practice.

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  6. Tom Fisher says:

    Geoff can rest assured that the ‘Mass of all time’ has never been questioned or banned by the Catholic Church, and never will be. However there will always be changes in liturgical form, as there has been over and over again in the history of our Church

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  7. Mimi says:

    Tom said: ‘I think it is hardly sensible to suggest that questioning the liturgy of (broadly speaking) the period between Trent and Vatican II is a recent practice.’

    It may have been adapted, tailored and developed over the centuries, but it was never dismantled and suppressed until V2, when it was replaced by a ‘banal fabrication’, to quote Pope Benedict.

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  8. kathleen says:

    Tom,

    You are correct that officially the Traditional Latin Mass (or Tridentine Mass) has never been banned, but my parents who looked everywhere for one, found it impossible to find a single parish where it was celebrated when it was replaced by the Novus Ordo Mass after Vatican II. There was the SSPX who celebrated it of course (with quite a large following in my home town) but they would not disobey the Pope and go there, in spite of their strong sympathies with this group. I was only a child at the time, and I and my siblings went along with our parents’ decisions of course.
    So it may not have been “banned”, but no priest appears to have been allowed to celebrate it in those years… Bit of a paradox that!

    Once I rediscovered this beautiful ‘Mass of the Ages’ (when I started going on the annual Chartres pilgrimage) I have become totally absorbed and in love with it again. I will travel miles on a Sunday if I hear of one being celebrated somewhere. It has no comparison in my opinion.

    Interesting link: http://www.sanctamissa.org/en/faq/the-roman-rite-and-the-extraordinary-form.html

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  9. GEOFF KIERNAN says:

    Tom; “The Mass of all time has never been banned or questioned” What say you to the current restrictions on the Franciscan of the Immaculate being permitted to celebrate the Mass of all time?

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  10. Maggie says:

    “What say you to the current restrictions on the Franciscan of the Immaculate being permitted to celebrate the Mass of all time?”
    It is a travesty. It is totally unjust and a smack down to Summorum Pontificum. Again those who appreciate the TLM are made to be second class citizens and there has been much name calling against them even from the highest places in the Church.

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  11. GEOFF KIERNAN says:

    Tom Fisher: I note that you have made no comment in respect to mine of the 11th April. This is popular tactic. whenever a hard or pertinent question is asked silence is the response whether it be Bishop priest Catholic media or Catholic school… Come on Tom, man up

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