Fr. Frans was an extraordinary person: fully human, fully alive. He was warm and compassionate to all. To the youth, he was someone who inspired and motivated, who never tired of hiking, trekking and going on long walks in the beauty of nature. To the elderly, he was a friend and mentor, a man whose long legs little children loved to cling to. For Muslims and Christians, for atheists and agnostics, for those who belonged to different religious groups and rites, he was a bridge-builder, a reconciler, a person who could draw the best out of them. For the spiritually weak and lost, he was a source of strength and a patient listener.

On 6 April, hundreds of people, from all walks of life, gathered in Homs, to celebrate the memory of Abouna Frans. For many who were touched by him, this was the first time they were coming together after his death five years earlier, the first time after the years of war. In his homily during the Eucharistic celebration, Fr. Arturo Sosa, Superior General of the Society of Jesus, shared with the Congregation excerpts from Fr. Frans’ homily during his First Mass on 30 May 1971, in which he said, “Only when my hands are empty can I really receive the other!”.

Prophetic words indeed from a man who, like his master Jesus of Nazareth, lived these words--joyously and unconditionally embracing others. On 7 April, the fifth anniversary of the martyrdom of Abouna Frans, hundreds more were expected to gather at the St Joseph’s Jesuit Church in Beirut for a special thanksgiving mass which was to be presided by Fr. Arturo Sosa.

Abouna Frans is a soothing balm to our broken and fragmented world. His voice was one of reconciliation and peace. He transcended the narrow confines of religion and rituals; everyone to him was a sister or brother – a human being. He gave to all a meaning and purpose in life. He accompanied them, encompassed and communicated love and ultimately, like Jesus, laid down his life for his people and for a greater good! He continues to live in the hearts and minds of many!

Read Father General’s homily.

Read the talk given by Fr Arturo Sosa on the occasion of the commemoration of the 5th anniversary of the martyrdom of Fr. Frans van der Lugt.