Rorate Caeli

"The Franciscans of the Immaculate: 'the Volpi era' is over."

Corrispondenza Romana
Roberto de Mattei
May 13, 2015

Sic transit gloria mundi. For the Franciscans of the Immaculate, the Institute founded by Father Stefano Maria Manelli, ( externally commissioned on 11th July 2013) the “era of Volpi” , which will certainly be remembered as one of the saddest in the history of this religious order, is over. Father Fidenzio Volpi, assigned by the Congregation for Religious as Apostolic Commissioner to liquidate Father Manelli’s order, is in fact in a Roman clinic, after suffering a cerebral ischemia, followed by a hemiparesis, which has seriously compromised his health, forcing him to renounce, irrevocably, his appointment as Commissioner.

In February 2014, “Corrispondenza Romana” had gathered 8000 signatures, sent to the Holy See, asking for the Capuchin’s resignation as Commissioner of the Franciscans of the Immaculate. “In the space of five months – we wrote in December 2013 – Father Volpi has shattered the Institute, creating chaos and suffering inside it, scandal to the faithful, criticism from the press, discomfort and perplexity in the ecclesiastical world. It is of little importance whether Father Volpi is the artificer or the executer of the destruction plan. What is certain is that if the plan is not stopped, the consequences will be disastrous and it is to avoid one disaster upon another that Father Volpi must be dismissed.”

Commissioner Volpi has not been dismissed by the Congregation for Religious, but by the mysterious designs of Divine Providence. Furthermore, his health has never been that good, and the tensions that he underwent after accepting the task of Commissioner, were very burdensome indeed, not only for the rupture which immediately opened with the Franciscans of the Immaculate, of whom 70% remained faithful to Father Manelli, but also for the contrasts created with Father Alfonso Bruno, who brought disaster on the Institute after the commissioning. Together with these, there were added tensions with the Congregation for Religious, which disapproved many of the initiatives taken by the Commissioner; like the attempt to condemn some friars without proceedings, after they had asked for a dispensation or exclaustration and who are now under the protection of many bishops in Italy, Great Britain and the Philippines.

Furthermore, Father Volpi’s credibility was compromised by the arrangement of February 12th 2015 at the Tribunal in Rome, initially undersigned, then retracted by Father Volpi himself, wherein the Commissioner had admitted defaming Father Manelli’s family members, accusing them of taking possession of real assets belonging to the Institute. The accusation that the Franciscans of the Immaculate had set aside illicitly some millions of Euros revealed itself to be a great big bluff. The investigations came about because of the contrast between the friars on the one side aligned to Father Volpi and Father Bruno and on the other the lay-faithful associations, faithful to Padre Manelli.

The first claim the availability of the properties that are legitimately owned by the second; from this, accusations, investigations and the singular decision of the judicial authorities to entrust the provisional care of the properties to Father Volpi (who is one of the parties in the law suit) until the magistrate announces his verdict.

The fact remains, however, that for almost two years, no-one has yet answered a basic question: what are the true reasons for the external commissioning of the Franciscans of the Immaculate? The hypotheses made are rather diverse, but so far the true reasons for the commissioning have never been clarified.

We offer our best wishes to Father Volpi, now definitely out of the picture. In the meantime, Father Stefano Maria Manelli is also in hospital at San Giovanni Rotondo, surrounded by the esteem and affection of many friars, nuns and lay-people, belonging to the spiritual family he founded. Now the Holy See will have to nominate a new Commissioner. It is the hope of everybody that the same errors of the previous one will not be repeated and that a new season opens with a different result.

[A Rorate translation by Francesca Romana.]