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Saturday, October 5, 2013


Vatican City, 5 October 2013 (VIS) – After lunch at the Caritas soup kitchen, the Pope visited the Hermitage of the Carceri (Prisons) at Mount Subasio, five kilometres from Assisi and at an altitude of eight hundred metres, surrounded by forests. There he visited the grotto where St. Francis had retreated in order to devote himself to contemplation, and the minute chapel dedicated to St. Mary where Francis and his peers gathered to pray together.

The visit lasted around half an hour; the Holy Father was welcomed by the religious community and prayed in St. Francis' grotto. From there, he transferred by car to the cathedral of St. Rufino to meet with the clergy, consecrated persons and members of the pastoral council of the diocese.

In this cathedral, there is the font where St. Francis and St. Clare were baptised, and the Pope mentioned this, emphasising the importance of the memory of baptism, “our birth as children of the Mother Church”. In his address, the pontiff spoke about the most important aspects in the life of the diocesan community and referred to the Synod that its members are about to commence.

The first issue he considered was the Word of God. “The Church is this”, said the Pope: “the community that listens, with faith and love, to the Lord who speaks. … It is the Word of God that engenders faith, that nourishes and regenerates it. The Word touches hearts, converts them to God and to His reasoning, which is so different from ours”. But “it is not enough to read the Sacred Scriptures, it is necessary to listen to Jesus Who speaks through them. We need to be antennae that receive, that tune in to the Word of God. It is the Spirit of God that brings the Scriptures alive, that allows them to be understood in depth, in their true and full sense”.

The second aspect is that of “walking. It is one of the words I like best when I think of the Christian and the Church. But for you it has a particular meaning – you are about to embark on a diocesan synod, and 'synod' means to walk together. I think this is truly our most beautiful experience: to be part of a community of people who walk together, throughout history, alongside the Lord, who walks among us. We are not isolated, we do not walk alone, but rather we are part of Christ's single flock, which walks united. And here, when I think of you priests – and allow me to include myself among you – I ask, what is more beautiful for us than being able to walk with our people? … united, without breaking away, without nostalgia for the past. And while we walk, we speak, we get to know each other, we grow together as a family”.

Finally, the third aspect is to go out into the peripheries and proclaim. “This is an element I experienced a lot when I was in Buenos Aires: the importance of reaching out towards others, in the peripheries”, in a geographical sense, and “above all, people in special life situations … marginalised and disregarded human lives. These are people who we perhaps find physically close to the 'centre' but spiritually distant”.

Do not be afraid of going out towards these people, to these situations. Do not allow yourselves to be obstructed by prejudices, habits, mental or pastoral rigidity, the famous 'it's always been done this way'! But you can reach the peripheries only if you carry the Word of God in your heart and walk with the Church, like St. Francis. Otherwise we only take ourselves with us, not the Word of God, and this is not good, it is not useful to anyone. We do not save the world ourselves; it is the Lord Who does this”.


Vatican City, 5 October 2013 (VIS) – Shortly after 4.15 p.m. the Pope reached the Basilica of St. Clare, where the cloistered nuns of the order founded by St. Clare, friend of St. Francis, reside. The pontiff descended into the crypt to venerate the body of the saint and then, in the chapel of the choir, prayed before the cross of St. Damian, which according to tradition spoke to St. Francis, telling him to repair His house. In this chapel the Pope, accompanied by the Council of Cardinals, met with the cloistered nuns and spoke with them off the cuff, beginning, “I thought that this meeting would be like the ones we have held twice at Castel Gandolfo, alone with the nuns but, I have to confess, I don't have the courage to send the cardinals away. Let us all remain together”.

When a cloistered nun consecrates her life to the Lord, a transformation occurs that we do not usually understand. Normally we assume that this nun becomes isolated, along with the Absolute, alone with God; it is an ascetic, penitent life. But this is not the path of a Catholic or indeed Christian cloistered nun. The path always passes via Jesus Christ. Jesus is the centre of your life, of your penance, of your community life, of your prayer, and also of the universality of prayer. And therefore, what happens is contrary to what we imagine of an ascetic cloistered nun. When she follows the path of contemplation of Jesus Christ, the path of prayer and penance with Jesus Christ, she becomes greatly human. Cloistered nuns are called upon to have great humanity, a humanity like that of the Mother Church; to be human, to understand all aspects of life, to be able to understand human problems, to know how to forgive and to pray to the Lord for others”.

Today during Mass, speaking of the Cross, I said that Francis had contemplated it with open eyes, with open wounds, with flowing blood. And this is your contemplation: reality. The contemplation of Christ's wounds! This is why it is so good when people attend the visiting room of a monastery, asking for prayers and talking about their problems. Perhaps the nun does not say anything extraordinary, but her word is inspired by her contemplation of Jesus Christ, because the nun, like the Church, is on a path to becoming an expert in humanity. And this is your path: not too spiritual! When [nuns] are too spiritual, I think of the foundress of the monasteries of your 'rivals', St. Theresa, for example, who when one of her nuns came to her to speak about, oh, about these things, said to the cook, “give her a steak!”. The humanity of Jesus Christ! Because the Word became flesh, God became flesh for us, and this gives you a great, human, beautiful and mature holiness, the holiness of a mother. And this is what the Church wants you to be: mothers. … To give life. When you pray, for example, for priests, for seminarians, you have a maternal role towards them; … you help them to become good shepherds for the People of God. But don't forget about St. Theresa's steak! It is important”.

The second thing I wanted to say to you, briefly, relates to community life. Forgive and support each other, because community life is not easy. … Make sure that the monastery is not a purgatory, but rather a family. Look for solutions with love; do not harm anyone among you to solve a problem. … Cherish community life, because when the community is like a family, the Holy Spirit is among the community. … I beg for you the joy that is born of true contemplation and of a beautiful community life. Thank you for your welcome and pray for me, please; don't forget”.


Vatican City, 5 October 2013 (VIS) – At 5.30 p.m., after crossing the square in front of the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and greeting the young people who awaited him, the Holy Father entered the Basilica accompanied by the guardian of the convent, Fr. Fabrizio Migliasso, O.F.M., and Cardinal Attilio Nicora. He retreated to the Porziuncola to pray in silence for minute. At 6.15 p.m. the Pope met with young Umbrians in the square in front of the Basilica and responded to four questions on the family, work, vocation and mission, posed by eight young people representing the eight dioceses of Umbria.

In relation to the family and marriage, Francis recalled that “our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents married in conditions of far greater poverty than our own … but they found strength in the certainty that the Lord was with them, that the family was blessed by God through the Sacrament of matrimony, and that their mission of bringing children to the world and educating them was also blessed. With this certainty they overcame even the most difficult trials. They were simple certainties, but true, and they formed the pillars that supported their love. Their life was not easy; there were problems, many problems. But these simple certainties helped them to move ahead and to form a family, to give life, to raise their children”. Francis emphasised that this moral and spiritual foundation is necessary to build a solid family, a foundation that is no longer guaranteed by families and social tradition or contemporary 'provisional' culture.

In response to the other questions, the Pope used the word Gospel as a message of salvation that “refers not only to religion, but also to mankind, all of mankind: the world, society, human civilisation”. “This message of salvation has two destinations, which are united”, he said. “The first is to engender faith, and this is evangelisation; the second is to transform the world according to God's design, and this is the Christian inspiration for society”.

Francis concluded by encouraging the young to move ahead with courage, “with the Gospel in your hearts and in your hands”, and urged them to “be witnesses to faith with your life: bring Christ into your homes, proclaim Him to your friends, welcome Him and serve Him with the poor. Young people, give Umbria a message of life, peace and hope! You can do it!”

The Holy Father subsequently transferred by car to the shrine of Rivotorto where he was received at 7 p.m. by Fr. Gianmarco Arrigoni, O.F.M., and by the religious community. He then visited St. Francis' “Tugurio” (hovel), and after farewell greetings with the authorities who had received him in the morning, he departed from the Rivotorto sports field by helicopter at 7.30 p.m., arriving shortly after in the Vatican.
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