The Order of Friars Minor (Franciscans), in its attempt to remain faithful to the intentions of the founder, St. Francis of Assisi, went through many difficulties in the course of its history, which led to disagreements and divisions.
The Capuchins are the youngest branch, going back to 1525, when some Friars Minor in the Marches wanted to live a stricter life of prayer and poverty to be closer to the original intentions of St. Francis. Thanks to the support of the Papal Court the new branch received early recognition and grew fast, first in Italy, and since 1574 all over Europe. The name Capuchins refers to the peculiar shape of the long hood. Originally a popular nickname, it has become the official name of the Order, which now exists in 106 countries all over the world, with around 10,500 brothers living in more than 1,700 communities (fraternities, friaries).
Simplicity, closeness to the people, a fraternal spirit in our houses and our apostolate are visible signs that mark our lifestyle, while the emphasis on penance and prayer in the life of the first Capuchins needs to be revived.
Since the beginning of the Order, the Capuchin Friars were imbued with a missionary spirit. Thus, from the earliest period of the order, the brothers went to preach the Gospel to the ends of the world. In this way, they arrived in Turkey.
The presence of Capuchin friars in Turkey dates from 1578. They then spread over the vast territory of present day Turkey, with the first missionary expedition of the newly established order consisting of four missionaries. Among them was St. Joseph of Leonesa. The friars headed toward Constantinople, spreading out from there to other places all over Turkey. Since then, through successive periods, Capuchins continued to undertake this sacred missionary apostolate of the Church. Some of the friars came to pay the ultimate price. Today, in the Custody of Turkey, there are 16 Capuchin missionaries: nine Italians, three Poles, two Turks, a Frenchman and an Indian. They are spread over six cities: Istanbul, Smyrna, Ephesus, Mersin, Adana, and Antioch. If possible, the Capuchins try to maintain a presence in places that have a Christian heritage. Their very presence is a great testimony to the Gospel in this part of Asia Minor. After all, it is here that the first Christian communities were formed. One still feels St. Paul’s presence in the old catacombs and rock churches!
The places where the brothers now live were once home to resilient communities of Christians. This is certainly the case in Ephesus, which is located near the Shrine of Meryem Ana. The Capuchins came here in 1966 at the invitation of the Archbishop of Smyrna - Alfred Cuthbert OFMCap Gumbinger. Then the General Curia of the Friars Minor Capuchin sent his brother Filibert to minister in the sanctuary. Thıs was probably in 1966 as well. Filibert lived alone here for about 20 years. In 1986, two more brothers arrived, sent by the General Curia. In 1990, the friars became custodians of the shrine as a part of the Custody of Turkey.
The present Curator of the sanctuary is Father Oriano Granella. Father Granella is fascinated by the history of the Church in Turkey and is constantly looking for creative new possibilities to foster a harmonious existence among Christians and others in the region.
Meryem Ana Evi