Franciscan religious order in 'grave' financial crisis

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ROME (AP) — The main Franciscan religious order in the Roman Catholic Church is in a financial crisis because of alleged wrongdoing from within and outside its ranks, head of the order said.

The head of the Order of Friars Minor, the Rev. Michael Perry, said "questionable financial activities" by some friars and outsiders have threatened the financial stability of the religious order. The order has notified church and civil authorities and is reviewing its finances going back to 2003.

The Order of Friars Minor "finds itself in grave, and I underscore 'grave' financial difficulty, with a significant burden of debt," Perry wrote in a statement Wednesday on the group's website. "The systems of financial oversight and control for the management of the patrimony of the order were either too weak or were compromised."

The general treasurer in the order's administrative offices in Rome has resigned.

"These questionable activities also involve people who are not Franciscan but who appear to have played a central role," Perry wrote.

He provided no details on how much money was involved. He asked individual provinces of the order to donate in the face of the crisis.

The Order of Friars Minor has about 15,000 members worldwide. It is one of several religious orders rooted in the teachings of St. Francis of Assisi, who gave up worldly life and dedicated himself to the poor.

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