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Franciscan order re-elects American brother amid ongoing financial crisis

Franciscan Father Michael Perry, minister-general of the Order of Friars Minor, embraces Pope Francis during his visit to the hermitage and cell of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy, in this Oct. 4 file photo. RNS photo courtesy Paul Haring/Catholic News Service.
Franciscan Father Michael Perry, minister-general of the Order of Friars Minor, embraces Pope Francis during his visit to the hermitage and cell of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy, in this Oct. 4 file photo. RNS photo courtesy Paul Haring/Catholic News Service.

Franciscan Brother Michael Perry, minister general of the Order of Friars Minor, embraces Pope Francis during his visit to the hermitage and cell of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy, in this Oct. 4, 2013, file photo. RNS photo courtesy of Paul Haring/Catholic News Service

(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

About the author

Rosie Scammell

Rosie Scammell is a British journalist with extensive experience reporting for leading international news organizations. She has been based in Italy since 2012 and covers the Vatican for RNS.

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