VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has officially recognized the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal as a religious institute of pontifical right, the order has announced.
Institutions of pontifical right depend immediately and exclusively on the Vatican in the matters of internal governance and discipline. It is the highest form of recognition for a religious community and is granted to institutes that show steady growth over a period of approximately 20-25 years.
The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, sometimes referred to as the CFRs, were founded in 1987 in the Archdiocese of New York by a group of eight American Capuchins who desired a form of Franciscan life dedicated specifically to service of the poor and evangelization.
The group was established as a diocesan institute by Cardinal John O’Connor in 1999.
Today, the order has about 100 perpetually professed members in 10 dioceses and archdioceses in six countries throughout the world. Besides the United States, the friars are located in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Nicaragua and Honduras.
Father Benedict Groeschel was one of the founding members of the CFRs. During his life as a friar, he founded the St. Francis House for the homeless and Good Counsel Homes for pregnant women in crisis in New York. He also directed Trinity Retreat House in Larchmont, New York, and taught at the Dunwoodie seminary.
In addition, he became known as an author and preacher. For more than 25 years, he appeared on EWTN, hosting Sunday Night: Live With Father Benedict Groeschel, among other programs. He passed away in October 2014 at the age of 81.
The friars are dedicated to their mission of serving the poor and most vulnerable, as well as preaching the Gospel as part of the New Evangelization.
“After the manner of St. Francis of Assisi, the friars seek to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, as a prophetic witness that life is a pilgrimage to the Father, of faith, hope and love of God and neighbor, made possible by the Holy Spirit,” the Holy See said when describing the friars’ charism.
“They participate in Christ’s renewal of all things through their prayer, fraternal life, service of the poor and evangelization, as a complement to the work of those whose mission is to serve parochially.”
The decree of recognition was signed by Cardinal João Bráz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and his secretary, Archbishop José Rodríguez Carballo, on June 13, the feast of St. Anthony of Padua. It was formally announced by the order in a statement on Dec. 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.
In the statement, the general servant (superior) of the order expressed his gratitude to the Archdiocese of New York and to Cardinal Timothy Dolan for having been “nurtured so faithfully … throughout these years.”
“(W)e now commit ourselves ever more urgently and zealously to the living out of our consecrated life, in faithful prayer, devoted fraternity and service to the most poor and needy among us,” he said.
“Please pray with us in praise and gratitude to God, on this special occasion, for his continued blessings on our community and his Church.”