Saint Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) is the founder of Franciscan community in Church. We call him Francis of Assisi as he was born, lived and died in Assisi, Italy. The following are some basic data about the Franciscans:
Franciscan communities all over the world constitute one Franciscan order. It is called Franciscan as his followers live and work by one specific order, i.e. Franciscan rule. This order has numerous diverse groups:
The Order of Friars Minor (OFM), the Capuchins and the Conventual Franciscans. They are called the First Franciscan Order.
Communities of nuns: The Poor Clares, Colettine Poor Clares etc. They constitute the Second Franciscan Order.
There is also the Third Order of St. Francis, which consists of tertiaries. There are two groups: Third Order Regular and Third Order Secular of St. Francis. The first group live in monasteries and the second one live in the world, with their families.
Living by the rules which were composed by St. Francis and being inspired by his holiness and spirituality is what all these orders have in common The most numerous order is the Secular Franciscan order. There are about 500.000 members all over the world. There are about 16.000 members of Friars Minor.
The First Franciscan Order has 110 provinces all over the world. Province in Bosnia is the fifth by the number of its members. The friars from Belgrade belong to this province. There are 312 of them now. They have their own seminary, grammar school, novitiate and faculty of theology for raising the youth, as well as humanitarian and charitable institutions for the people, media and informative center, some interfaith, international and other necessary services. Bosnian Franciscans live in 19 monasteries and work as pastoral clergy in 91 parishes and 13 Croatian catholic missions in the world. They look after pilgrims in 4 provincial sanctuaries. According to census of believers in 2005, they serve to 164.642 believers in Bosnia, Serbia and Kosovo. They are responsible for monks’ duties, provision of pastoral care, education, teaching, scientific advancements, charity, mission-minded duties and other tasks which are in accordance with their calling. Today, Bosnian Franciscans live and work in 16 different countries in 4 continents. Seven of them are missionaries. They are not present in Asia but some of them sometimes study or go on a pilgrimage to Holy Land.
If we talk about territories, Bosnia, Central Serbia (Šumadija) and Kosovo and Metohia belong to Province of Bosnian Franciscans. That’s why the friars from Bosnia are in Belgrade and in Đakovica on Kosovo as well.
According to chronicle of Friar Fortunat Hüber (Munich, 1686), the Franciscans arrived in Belgrade in 1280. The purpose of their arrival was probably to help with religious needs of numerous Catholic merchants from Bosnia and Dubrovnik. “In the archives from 17th century (1613-1634), Bosnian and Dubrovnik bazaar of Catholics in Belgrade is mentioned. There were around 1.500 Bosniaks and 200 people from Dubrovnik. They had a Franciscan as their parish priest. There was also a small Jesuit residence with school that was attended by 32 pupils”.
Belgrade was ruled by different nations and different state authorities during its history and under influence of various cultures and jurisdiction of Western and Eastern Church as well. Franciscans were terrorized a few times in Belgrade during Ottoman rule. Turks destroyed their churches and monasteries. There is a note written in the necrology of the Franciscan monastery in Zagreb, on 21 July, 1456: “60 anonymous brothers tertiaries fought together with John of Capistrano on the battlefield near Belgrade and gave their lives for Christ and Church”. These are our martyrs-tertiaries of Franciscan order. One Franciscan monastery was mentioned in 1514 and it was placed in an old part of the city called “imaret” in Belgrade. That monastery was torn down by Turks who built a mosque in the same place in 1521. A license for construction of new monastery was obtained in 1727, which was built in honor of Saint John of Capistrano, the defender of Belgrade.
Franciscan monastery in Bregalnička Street, Belgrade, belongs to Province of Bosnia Srebrena, headquartered in Sarajevo. In 2006, the monastery celebrated its 80th anniversary since it was built and received its first residents in 1926. The parish for Catholic believers was established next to the monastery in Belgrade, 1927. The church of Saint Anthony of Padua was built and opened in 1932, Belgrade. It is a large edifice, architecturally well-designed by the draft of famous Slovak architect Joža Plečnik.
Apart from Belgrade in the Archdiocese of Belgrade, Bosnian Franciscans were also in Smederevo (1927–1941), Niš (1927–1940, 1983–1991), Šabac (1928–1941, 1963–1974), Kraljevo (1934–1940) and Nišs (since 2007).