(RNS) An influential Franciscan order re-elected its American leader Thursday (May 21), just months after some of its members were accused of embezzling tens of millions of dollars.
Brother Michael Perry was voted in for a six-year term as minister general of the Order of Friars Minor, a post he has held for the past two years.
The election comes five months after 60-year-old Perry announced the order was facing bankruptcy following a series of “questionable financial activities” by friars. At the time, Perry said the order was in “grave, and I underscore grave, financial difficulty, with a significant burden of debt.”
In a letter posted online in December, Perry said an internal inquiry had been launched and the order’s general treasurer, Father Giancarlo Lati, had resigned.
The financial woes of the Order of Friars Minor were first revealed by Italian news magazine Panorama, which reported that Swiss prosecutors had seized Franciscan accounts whose owners allegedly invested in illegal operations.
Perry’s handling of the scandal was evidently praiseworthy enough for him to hold onto his position as the head of the order, of which he was previously vicar general. The Indianapolis-born friar was ordained a priest in 1984 and spent a decade working as a missionary in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He held numerous other posts in the U.S. before joining the Order of Friars Minor in 2009.
The order was established by St. Francis of Assisi in the early 13th century in central Italy. Members of the Order of Friars Minor work in at least 110 countries and have gained more attention since former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio picked the Italian saint’s name when he became Pope Francis in 2013.
YS/MG END SCAMMELL