Vatican City, 4 October 2013 (VIS) – The second stage of Pope Francis' pastoral visit to Assisi was the bishop's residence. Here, in 1206, before his father Pietro Bernardone, who, enraged by his son's conduct, had taken him to trial, and the bishop Guido, representative of the ecclesial authority to whom the Poverello had appealed, Francis denuded himself of his rich garments and proclaimed God as his true father. Moved by this gesture, the bishop embraced him and covered him with his cape.
In the “Sala della Spoliazione”, where this episode took place, the Holy Father met with the poor assisted by Caritas, after listening to an address by bishop Domenico Sorrentino, who remarked that Francis was the first pope to visit the room in the last eight hundred years.
The pontiff, again speaking off the cuff, said that during recent days the newspapers had speculated about what he would say in that room. “The Pope will go to despoil the Church there! He will despoil the bishops, the cardinals, himself!” This, he observed “is a good opportunity to invite the Church to despoil herself. But we are all Church! All of us! From the first moment of our baptism, we are all Church, and we must all take the path of Jesus, who took the path of despoiling himself. He became a servant; he sought humiliation, unto the Cross. And if we wish to be Christians, there is no other path”.
“But some say”, he continued, “can't we follow a more human Christianity – without the Cross, without Jesus, without denuding ourselves? In this way we become cake-shop Christians, like beautiful cakes, exquisite sweets. Beautiful, but not true Christians! Some might say, 'but what does the Church need to despoil herself of?' Today she must cast aside a grave sin, which threatens every member of the Church, all of us: the danger of worldliness. The Christian cannot co-exist with this worldly spirit. Worldliness leads us to vanity, self-importance, pride. And this is an idol, it is not God. It is an idol! And idolatry is the gravest sin of all!”
“When the media speak of the Church, they believe that the Church means priests, nuns, bishops, cardinals and the Pope. But we are all Church, as I have said. And we must all cast aside this worldiness: the spirit contrary to the beatitudes, the spirit contrary to that of Jesus. Worldliness is harmful to us. It is so sad to encounter a worldly Christian, sure within himself of that security that faith gives him, and sure of the security the world offers him. You cannot work on both sides. The Church – all of us – must reject worldliness, which leads to vanity and pride, which are idolatry”.
“Jesus Himself said, 'No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money'. In money He includes all this worldly spirit: money, vanity, pride, that route... that we cannot follow … it is sad to erase with one hand what we write with the other. The Gospel is the Gospel! There is one God, and Jesus became a servant for us, and the spirit of the world has nothing to do with this”.
“And today, many of you”, he said, addressing those present, “have been despoiled by this savage world, that does not give you work, that does not offer help; to which it does not matter if there are children who die of hunger in the world; it does not matter if many families have nothing to eat, and do not have the dignity of being able to bring home bread; it does not matter that many people are forced to flee from slavery and hunger, to flee in search of freedom. With great sadness we see, so many times, that instead they find death, as they did yesterday, in Lampedusa: today is a day of grief. This is what the worldly spirit does. It is entirely ridiculous that a Christian – a true Christian, a priest, a nun, a bishop, a cardinal, a Pope, might wish to follow the path of worldliness, which is a homicidal path. The spirit of worldliness kills! It kills the soul! It kills people! It kills the Church!”
“When Francis despoiled himself he was just a young boy, he did not have the strength for such a gesture. It was the strength of God that drove him to do this, the strength of God Who wanted to remind us of what Jesus said to us about the spirit of the world, that which Jesus begged of His Father, so that the Father might save us from the spirit of the world”.
“Today, here”, concluded Pope Francis, “we ask for grace for all Christians. May the Lord give us all the courage to despoil ourselves, not of twenty cents, but of the spirit of the world, which is the leprosy, the cancer of our society! It is the cancer of God's revelation. The spirit of the world is the enemy of Jesus! I ask the Lord for the grace of despoiling us of this”.
Finally, the Pope thanked all of those present for their welcome, and added, “Pray for me; I need your prayers”.