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Friday, October 4, 2013


Vatican City, 4 October 2013 (VIS) – The Pope began his pastoral visit to Assisi to celebrate the feast of St. Francis, patron of Italy. The Pope's helicopter landed a quarter of an hour ahead of schedule – at 7.30 a.m. - in the sports field of the Seraphic Institute of Assisi, where he greeted a group of sick and disabled children. The Holy Father was accompanied by the eight members of the Council of Cardinals, who concluded their first meeting in the Vatican yesterday afternoon. Upon his arrival, the Pope was received by Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino, bishop of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino, the president of the Italian Senate, Pietro Grasso, and the president of the Region of Umbria, Catiuscia Marini.

Francis warmly embraced the children from the Institute and, commenting on the address given by the director of the Institute, Francesca Maiolo, he said, “We are among the wounds of Christ … wounds that need to be acknowledged. … It reminds me of when the Lord Jesus was walking with the two sad disciples. The Lord Jesus, in the end, showed them His wounds, and they recognised Him. … And here Jesus is hidden among these children, in these people. … They need to be listened to. Perhaps not in the newspapers, as news items: that is a form of attention that lasts for one, two, three days, and then another piece of news comes along, and another... They need to be heard by those who declare themselves Christians”.

But”, he added, “when He was resurrected, Jesus was beautiful. His body bore no bruises, no wounds... Nothing! He was more beautiful! But he wished to conserve His wounds and to carry them to Heaven. The wounds of Christ are here and are in Heaven, before the Father”.

The Holy Father then delivered to Archbishop Sorrentino the address he had prepared, to be considered as read, and a summary of which we offer here below.

My visit is above all a pilgrimage of love, to pray at the tomb of a man who, divested of himself, redressed himself in Christ and, following Christ's example, offered his love to all, especially the poorest and most abandoned; he loved God's creation with wonder and simplicity. Arriving here in Assisi, at the city gates, we find this Institute, which is indeed named 'Seraphic', a name used to describe Francis. It was founded by a great Franciscan, Blessed Ludovico of Casoria. And it is right to begin here. St. Francis, who said, in his testament, 'The Lord granted me, Brother Francis, to begin to do penance in this way: While I was in sin, it seemed very bitter to me to see lepers. And the Lord Himself led me among them and I had mercy upon them”.

Society, unfortunately, is contaminated by a throwaway culture, which is the opposite of the culture of welcome. And the victims of throwaway culture are precisely the weakest, the most fragile. In this House, I see instead the culture of welcome in action. … Thank you for this sign of love that you offer: this is a sign of true civilisation, human and Christian! Placing the most disadvantaged people at the centre of social and political attention! At times, instead, families find they have to take on the responsibility of caring for them alone. What can we do? Here, where we see real love, I say to all: let us multiply the action of this culture of welcome, of works inspired above all by deep Christian love, love for Christ Crucified, for the flesh of Christ, works which unite professionalism, qualified and justly remunerated work with that of volunteers, a most valuable treasure”.

To serve those most in need of assistance enables us to grow in humanity, because these are true resources of humanity. St. Francis was a young rich man, with ideals of glory, but Jesus, in the person of the leper, spoke to him in silence and changed him, making him understand what was truly of value in life: not wealth, the strength of arms, earthly glory, but humility, mercy, forgiveness”.

At the end of the visit, the Pope proceeded to the Church of St. Damian to pray privately. This was the place where, in 1205, while praying before the cross, heard Jesus speak to him, asking him to repair His house. Here, too, in the later years of his life, the 'Poverello' composed his “Canticle of the Creatures”. On arrival the pontiff was received by Fr. Michael A. Perry, minister general of the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor and by the religious community of the convent. After praying, the Pope proceeded to the bishop's residence in Assisi, to the room where St. Francis despoiled himself of the garments given to him by his father, in order to meet with the poor assisted by Caritas.


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”.


Vatican City, 4 October 2013 (VIS) – Following his visit to the bishop's residence, the Holy Father proceeded on foot to the Church of St. Mary Major. From there he transferred by car to the Upper Basilica where he was awaited by representatives of government and clergy. Following greetings, the Pope visited the Crypt to venerate the tomb of St. Francis, where he prayed for a minute.

The Holy Father celebrated Holy Mass at 11 a.m. in Piazza San Francesco, in front of the Basilica. He began his homily by commenting that Francis has much to tell us today, “not merely with words … but by his life”. The reality to which he bore witness is that “being a Christian means having a living relationship with the person of Jesus; it means putting on Christ, being conformed to him. … Where did Francis’ journey to Christ begin?” he asked, before approximately one hundred thousand well-wishers. “It began with the gaze of the crucified Jesus. With letting Jesus look at us at the very moment that he gives his life for us and draws us to himself. Francis experienced this in a special way in the Church of St. Damian, as he prayed before the cross which I too will have an opportunity to venerate”. He commented that paradoxically the cross “does not speak to us about defeat and failure” but rather “it speaks to us about a death which is life, a death which gives life”.

The second witness Francis gives us is, the Pope continued, “that everyone who follows Christ receives true peace, the peace that Christ alone can give, a peace which the world cannot give. … Franciscan peace is not something saccharine. Hardly! That is not the real Saint Francis! Nor is it a kind of pantheistic harmony with forces of the cosmos… That is not Franciscan either; it is a notion some people have invented! The peace of Saint Francis is the peace of Christ, and it is found by those who 'take up' their 'yoke', namely, Christ’s commandment: Love one another as I have loved you. This yoke cannot be borne with arrogance, presumption or pride, but only with meekness and humbleness of heart”.

Thirdly, the Pope said, “Saint Francis of Assisi bears witness to the need to respect all that God has created, and that men and women are called to safeguard and protect, but above all he bears witness to respect and love for every human being. … Let us respect creation, let us not be instruments of destruction! Let us respect each human being. May there be an end to armed conflicts which cover the earth with blood; may the clash of arms be silenced; and everywhere may hatred yield to love, injury to pardon, and discord to unity. Let us listen to the cry of all those who are weeping, who are suffering and who are dying because of violence, terrorism or war, in the Holy Land, so dear to Saint Francis, in Syria, throughout the Middle East and everywhere in the world”.

The Pope concluded by mentioning that today Italy celebrates St. Francis as her patron saint, and made a plea to the saint for peace in our world, asking “that everyone will always work for the common good, and look more to what unites us, rather than what divides us”.

Following the eucharistic celebration, the Holy Father transferred by car to the Centre of St. Mary of the Angels to meet with the poor assisted there by Caritas.


Vatican City, 4 October 2013 (VIS) – The first meeting of the Council of Cardinals ended yesterday afternoon, according to a communique from the Holy See Press Office.

It was agreed that the next meeting of the Council will take place from 3 to 5 December, to be followed by third meeting in February 2014. This will enable the work of the Council – especially in this initial phase – to proceed at a rapid pace.


Vatican City, 4 October 2013 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father accepted the resignation of Fr. Abbot Dom Martin Werlen, O.S.B., from the pastoral care of the territorial abbacy of Maria Einsiedeln, Switzerland, upon reaching the end of his mandate.


Vatican City, 4 October 2013 (VIS) – The Vatican Information Service will transmit a special bulletin tomorrow, Saturday 5 October, for Pope Francis' pastoral visit to Assisi.
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