CEFID - the International Franciscan Center for Dialogue of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual was founded in 1989 as the fruit of a long activity of the friars in the field of ecumenical and interreligious dialogue. Its goal is to work for Christian unity (ecumenism) and to carry on “the Spirit of Assisi” (interreligious dialogue) following in the footsteps of Saint Francis. Before the CEFID, the Ecumenical Center already existed at the Sacred Convent. The Maltese friar Maximilian Mizzi was elected “Director” of the Ecumenical Center, but already before the foundation of the center and thus the formalization of the mission more brothers were engaged in fraternal dialogue with non-catholic pilgrims, who visited the Basilica of St. Francis and the tomb of the saint in the crypt of the Basilica. Examples are the Dutch friar, Felice Spee (1853-1916), the German friar Gerhard Ruf (1927-2008) and the well-known Danish poet, who converted to Catholicism, Johannes Jørgensen (1866-1956), who wrote an acknowledged biography about St. Francis.
One of the most difficult moments of history was when Friar Michele Todde (1882-1972) of Sardinia risked his life saving Jews from being deported to Nazi-concentration camps between 1943 and 1944, when Nazi-Germany had occupied Italy and Assisi. For his efforts in saving the Jews during the war, who fled to Assisi, he received a certificate of recognition together with Don Aldo Brunacci, a priest of the Diocese of Assisi.
The beautiful story about Assisi’s role during World War II may be read in an Assisi Mission newsletter from 2007 (Danish language), link:
Friar Maximilian Mizzi (1930-2008), was among the most notable figures in the ecumenical and interreligious dialogue apostolate of the Order. He made his first ecumenical contacts in 1960 with Anglicans in the United Kingdom, and later with Lutherans in Scandinavia and others. From the beginning of his mission every year he arranged activities in Assisi, met countless groups from different religions and traditions, and he travelled extensively to many countries on all continents, where he was one of the keynote speakers in national and international meetings and thus got to know great personalities in the political, scientific and religious field.
The Order, conscious that Assisi is the city of dialogue feels called to promote “the Spirit of Assisi” following the vision and desire of St. Francis that all creation lives in brotherhood in and through Christ.
At the general chapter in October 2007, where friar Silvestro Bejan was appointed delegate general for ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, the dialogue with Islam was highlighted as especially important in our time. It is also a main task for the CEFID to train all friars to carry on ecumenical and interreligious dialogue in “the Spirit of Assisi.” Furthermore, the CEFID collaborates with other ecumenical and interreligious centers of the Order, with the Vatican and other Christian confessions and world religions to promote ecumenical and interreligious dialogue through meetings, prayer services, round table discussions, and conferences. Also the welcoming non-catholic pilgrims who come to Assisi is an important field of dialogue.
Assisi Mission has since 2001 given support to the ecumenical and interreligious dialogue mission of the Order, and continues to do so. Since 2010, all Assisi Mission's retreats in Assisi have been held at the CEFID, where all participants are very happy and grateful to stay because of the center's peace, silence and beauty. It was also at the CEFID that Bente Wolf’s and Father Mizzi's collaboration, which started in 2001, unfolded in the reception of numerous groups from around the world for dialogue meetings, lectures, masses, prayers and meditations. From 2004 to 2008, the activities took place at the Sacred Convent.