Visit of Pope Francis to Assisi with the Council of Cardinals October 4, 2013 

 

Francis' Address at Seraphic Institute of Assisi

"Jesus' wounds are here and they are in Heaven before the Father"

ASSISI, ITALY, October 04, 2013  - Shortly before 7:00 am today, Pope Francis left by helicopter from the Vatican heliport to go on a pastoral visit to Assisi. Among the members of his entourages were the eight Cardinals chosen to advise him on the government of the universal Church.

When the helicopter landed at 7:25 am in the sports field of the Seraphic Institute of Assisi, the Pope was welcomed by the Archbishop-Bishop of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino, H.E. Monsignor Domenico Sorrentino, by the President of the Umbria Region, the Honorable Catiuscia Marini, by the Ambassador of Italy to the Holy See, H.E. Francesco Maria Greco, by the Apostolic Nuncio in Italy, H.E. Monsignor Adriano Bernardini, by the Prefect of Perugia, Doctor Antonio Reppucci, by the Mayor of Assisi, Doctor Claudio Ricci, and by the President of the Province of Perugia, Doctor Marco Vinicio Guasticchi.

Then Pope Francis walked to the Seraphic Institute where he met in the chapel with disabled and sick children, guests of the Institute.

After the words of welcome of the Mayor of Assisi, Doctor Claudio Ricci, and the presentation of the reality of the Seraphic Institute by the President, Doctor Francesca di Maolo, the Pope gave an impromptu address to those present. Here is a translation:

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We are among the wounds of Jesus, you said Mrs. <di Maolo>. You also said that these wounds are in need of being heard, of being recognized. And coming to my mind is when the Lord Jesus was going on the way with those two sad disciples. In the end, the Lord Jesus made his wounds seen and they recognized Him, then the bread, where He was there. My brother Domenico told me that Adoration takes place here. That bread is also in need of being heard, because Jesus is present and hidden behind the simplicity and meekness of bread. And here Jesus is hidden in these youngsters, in these children, and these persons. On the altar we adore Jesus’ Flesh; in them we find Jesus’ wounds, Jesus hidden in the Eucharist and Jesus hidden in these wounds. They are in need of being heard! Perhaps not so much in newspapers, as news; that is a listening that lasts one, two, three days, then something else happens, something else. Jesus’ wounds must be recognized. And today, all of us here have the need to say: “These wounds must be heard!” However, there is something else that gives us hope. Jesus is present in the Eucharist, the Flesh of Jesus is here; Jesus is present among you, it is Jesus’ Flesh: they are Jesus’ wounds in these persons.

But it’s interesting: when He rose Jesus was very beautiful. He did not have bruises, sores on his body … nothing! He was most beautiful! He only wished to keep the wounds, and he took them to Heaven. Jesus’ wounds are here and they are in Heaven before the Father. We cure Jesus’ wounds here and He, from Heaven, shows us his wounds and says to all of us, to all of us: “I’m waiting for you!” So be it.

May the Lord bless you all. May his love descend upon us, may He walk with us; may Jesus tell us that these wounds are His and may He help us to give them voice, because we Christians hear them.

Below is a translation of the text of the address Pope Francis prepared for this occasion:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I wish to begin my visit to Assisi with you, I greet you all! Today is the feast of Saint Francis, and as Bishop of Rome, I chose to bear his name. See why I am here today: my visit is above all a pilgrimage of love, to pray at the tomb of a man who despoiled himself of himself and clothed himself in Christ and, following Christ’s example, loved all, especially the poorest and most abandoned. He loved God’s creation with wonder and simplicity. On arriving here at Assisi, at the doors of the city, one finds this Institute, which is called in fact “Seraphic,” a nickname of Saint Francis. It was founded by a great Franciscan, Blessed Ludovico da Casoria.

And it’s right to begin from here. In his Testament, Saint Francis says: “The Lord said to me, brother Francis, begin to do penance like this: when I was in sins it seemed to me something too bitter to see lepers: and the Lord himself led me among them and exercised mercy. And, distancing myself from them, what seemed to me bitter was changed into sweetness of spirit and body” (FF, 110).

Unfortunately, society is polluted by the “throw away” culture, which is opposed to the culture of hospitality. And the victims of the throw away culture are in fact the weakest and most fragile persons. In this House, instead, I see in action the culture of hospitality. Of course even here not everything will be perfect, but there is collaboration together for the worthy life of persons with grave difficulties. Thank you for this sign of love that you offer us: this is the sign of true human and Christian civilization! To put at the center of social and political attention the most disadvantaged persons! Sometimes instead the families find themselves alone in taking charge of them. What should be done? From this place, in which concrete love is seen, I say to all: let us multiply the works of the culture of hospitality, works first of all animated by profound Christian love, love of Christ Crucified, of the flesh of Christ, works in which professionalism, qualified work justly remunerated is united with volunteer work, a precious treasure.

To serve with love and with tenderness persons who are in need of so much help makes us grow in humanity, because they are true resources of humanity. Saint Francis was a rich youth; he had ideals of glory, but in the person of that leper, Jesus spoke to him in silence, and changed him, made him understand what is really worthwhile in life: not riches, the force of arms, earthly glory, but humility, mercy and forgiveness.

Dear brothers and sisters, I wish to read here something personal, one of the most beautiful letters I have received, a gift of the love of Jesus. Nicolas wrote it to me, a 16-year-old boy, disabled since birth, who lives in Buenos Aires. I will read it: “Dear Francis: I am Nicolas and I am 16; as I cannot write you (because I don’t yet talk, and don’t walk), I’ve asked my parents to do so in my place, because they are the persons who know me most. I would like to tell you that when I was 6 years old, in my school which is called Aedin, Father Paul gave me my First Communion and this year, in November, I will be Confirmed, something that gives me great joy. Every night, since you asked me, I ask my Guardian Angel, who is called Eusebius and who is very patient, to guard and help you. Be sure that he does so very well because he takes care of me and accompanies me every day! Ah! And when I cannot sleep … he comes to play with me! I would very much like to come to see you and to receive your Blessing and a kiss: only this! I send you many greetings and continue to ask Eusebius to take care of you and to give you strength, Kisses. NICO.”

In this letter, in this boy’s heart there is beauty, love, the poetry of God. God who reveals himself to those who have a simple heart, to the little ones, to the humble, to those who we often consider the least, you also, dear friends: when that boy can’t fall asleep he plays with his Guardian Angel; it is God who comes down to play with him.

In the Chapel of this Institute, the Bishop wished that there would be permanent Eucharistic Adoration: the same Jesus that we adore in the Sacrament, we find in the most fragile brother, from whom we learn, without barriers and complications, that God loves us with simplicity of heart.

Thank you all for this meeting. I carry you with me, in affection and in prayer. But you also pray for me! May the Lord bless you and Our Lady and Saint Francis protect you.

After having left the Chapel of the Seraphic Institute, the Holy Father, appearing at a window, addressed the following words to the persons outside the building:

Good morning! I greet you. Thank you so much for all this. And pray for all the children, the youngsters, the persons who are here, for all those who work here, for them. <It is> so beautiful! May the Lord bless you! Pray also for me! But always! Pray in favor, not against! May the Lord bless you.

 

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 Pope's Address at Site Where St. Francis Embraced Lady Poverty

"A Christian cannot coexist with the spirit of the world; worldliness that leads us to vanity, to arrogance, to pride"

ASSISI, ITALY, October 04, 2013 - Here is a translation of the text the Vatican released of the Holy Father’s address this morning in Assisi, at the place where Francis stripped himself of his riches to embrace “Lady Poverty.” The Holy Father spoke off the cuff; a translation of his prepared text is also below.

* * *

My brother Bishop has said that it is the first time in 800 years that a Pope comes here. In these days in the newspapers, in the media, they fancied that “The Pope will go there to despoil the Church!” “of what will he despoil the Church?” “He will despoil the habits of the Bishops, of the Cardinals; he will despoil himself.” This is a good occasion to invite the Church to despoil herself. But all of us are the Church! All! From the first one baptized, we are all the Church, and we must all go on the path of Jesus, who, Himself, followed the way of despoliation. He became a slave, a servant; he willed to be humiliated unto the Cross. And if we want to be Christians, there is no other way. But can we not make a Christianity that is a bit more human – they say – without the cross, without Jesus, without despoliation? In this way we will become pastry Christians, like beautiful cakes, like beautiful sweet things” Very lovely, but not Christians really! Someone might say: “But of what must the Church despoil herself? “ She must despoil herself today of a very grave danger, which threatens every person in the Church, <which threatens> all: the danger of worldliness. A Christian cannot coexist with the spirit of the world; worldliness that leads us to vanity, to arrogance, to pride. And this is an idol, it’s not God. It’s an idol! And idolatry is the strongest sin!

When the media speaks of the Church, they believe that the Church is the priests, the Sisters, the Bishops, the Cardinals and the Pope. But the Church is all of us, as I said. And all of us must despoil ourselves of this worldliness: the contrary spirit to the spirit of the Beatitudes, the spirit contrary to the spirit of Jesus. Worldliness does evil to us. It’s so sad to meet a worldly Christian, certain – according to him – of that security that gives him faith and certain of the security that the world gives him. One cannot work on both sides. The Church – all of us – must despoil herself of worldliness, which leads her to vanity, pride, which is idolatry.

Jesus himself said to us: “You cannot serve two masters: either you serve God or you serve mammon” (cf. Matthew 6:24). In money there is all this worldly spirit; money, vanity, pride, that way  … we cannot take … it is sad to cancel with one hand what we write with the other. The Gospel is the Gospel! God is one! And Jesus made himself servant for us and the spirit of the world doesn’t come in here. Today I am here with you. So many of you have been despoiled by this savage world, which doesn’t give work, which doesn’t help, which is not concerned that there are children who die of hunger in the world; it doesn’t matter that so many families have nothing to eat, do not have the dignity to bring bread home; it doesn’t matter that so many people must flee from slavery, from hunger and flee seeking freedom. How often with so much grief we see that they meet with death, as happened yesterday at Lampedusa: today is a day of lamentation! These things are done by the spirit of the world. It is in fact ridiculous that a Christian – a true Christian – that a priest, that a Sister, that a Bishop, that a Cardinal, that a Pope want to go on the path of this worldliness, which is a homicidal attitude. Spiritual worldliness kills! It kills the soul! It kills persons! It kills the Church!

When Francis made the gesture here of despoiling himself he was a young boy, he didn’t have the strength for it. It was the strength of God that pushed him to do it, the force of God that wishes to remind us, what Jesus said to us about the spirit of the world, what Jesus prayed to the Father about, so that the Father would  save us from the spirit of the world.

Today, we ask here the grace for all Christians. That the Lord will give all of us the courage to despoil ourselves, but not of 20 Lire, but to despoil ourselves of the spirit of the world, which is leprosy, it is the cancer of society! It is the cancer of God’s revelation! The spirit of the world is Jesus’ enemy! I ask the Lord to give all of us this grace of despoiling ourselves. Thank you!

[At the end of the meeting, the Pope said the following words]:

Thank you so much for the welcome. Pray for me, I am in great need of it … All of you! Thank you!

[Below is a translation of the address that Pope Francis prepared for this occasion]:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Thank you for your welcome! This place is a special place, and, because of this I wished to pause here, even if the day is very full. Here Francis despoiled himself of everything, before his father, the Bishop and the people of Assisi. It was a prophetic gesture, and it was also an act of prayer, an act of love and of entrustment to the Father who is in Heaven.

With that gesture, Francis made his choice: the choice to be poor. It’s not a sociological, ideological choice; it’s the choice of being like Jesus, of imitating Him, of following Him to the end. Jesus is God who despoiled himself of his glory. We read this in Saint Paul: Christ Jesus, who was God , despoiled himself, emptied himself, and made himself like us, and in this abasement he arrived at the death of the cross (cf. Philippians 2:6-8). Jesus is God, but he was born naked, he was placed in a manger, and died naked and crucified.

Francis despoiled himself of everything, of his worldly life, of himself, to follow his Lord, Jesus, to be like Him. Bishop Guido understood that gesture and rose immediately, embracing Francis and covering him with his cloak, and was always his aid and protector (cf. Vita Prima, FF, 344).

Saint Francis’ spoliation tells us simply what the Gospel teaches us: to follow Jesus means to put Him in the first place, to despoil ourselves of the many things we have that suffocate our heart, to renounce ourselves, to take up the cross and carry it with Jesus. To despoil ourselves of the pride-filled “I” and detach ourselves from the desire to have, from money, which is an idol that possesses.

We are all called to be poor, to despoil ourselves of ourselves; and for this we must learn to be with the poor, to share with those who are deprived of the necessary, to touch the flesh of Christ! The Christian is not one who fills his mouth with the poor, no! He is one who encounters them, who looks at them in their eyes, who touches them. I am here not to “make news” but to point out that this is the Christian way, the one that Saint Francis followed. Speaking of Saint Francis’ spoliation, Saint Bonaventure wrote: “So, then, the servant of the Most High King was left naked, so that he would follow his naked crucified Lord, object of his love.” And he adds that, in this way, Francis was saved from the “shipwreck of the world” (FF 1043).

However, as Pastor, I would like to ask myself: of what must the Church despoil herself?

She must despoil herself of all spiritual worldliness, which is a temptation for all; despoil herself of all action that is not for God, that is not of God; of the fear of opening the doors and of going out to meet all especially the poorest, neediest, distant, without waiting; certainly not to be lost in the shipwreck of the world, but to take with courage the light of Christ, the light of the Gospel, also in the darkness, where one cannot see, where one can stumble; to despoil herself of the apparent calm that the structures give, which are certainly necessary and important, but which must never darken the only true strength she bears in herself: that of God. He is our strength! To despoil herself of what isn’t essential, because the reference is Christ; the Church is Christ’s! So many steps have been taken, especially in these decades. Let us continue on this path which is that of Christ, that of the Saints.

For all, also for our society which gives signs of exhaustion, if we want to be saved  from the shipwreck, it’s necessary to follow the way of poverty, which is not misery – this must be combatted --, but it is knowing how to share, being more solidaristic with the needy, trusting more in God and less in our own human strengths. Monsignor Sorrentino has recalled the work of solidarity of Bishop Nicolini, who helped hundreds of Jews, hiding them in convents, and the center of secret sorting was in fact here, in the bishopric. This also is spoliation, which always stems from, love, from the mercy of God!

In this place which invites us to question ourselves, I would like to pray so that every Christian, the Church, every man and woman of good will, will be able to despoil themselves of what is not essential to go to meet those who are poor and ask to be loved. Thank you all!

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 Pope's Homily at Mass in Assisi

"We turn to you, Francis, and we ask you: Teach us to remain before the cross, to let the crucified Christ gaze upon us"

ASSISI, ITALY, October 04, 2013 - Here is a Vatican translation of the prepared text for Pope Francis' homily today at Mass in Assisi.

* * *

"I give you thanks, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding, and revealed them to babes" (Mt 11:25).

Peace and all good to each and every one of you! With this Franciscan greeting I thank you for being here, in this Square so full of history and faith, to pray together.

Today, I too have come, like countless other pilgrims, to give thanks to the Father for all that he wished to reveal to one of the "little ones" mentioned in today’s Gospel: Francis, the son of a wealthy merchant of Assisi. His encounter with Jesus led him to strip himself of an easy and carefree life in order to espouse "Lady Poverty" and to live as a true son of our heavenly Father. This decision of Saint Francis was a radical way of imitating Christ: he clothed himself anew, putting on Christ, who, though he was rich, became poor in order to make us rich by his poverty (cf. 2 Cor 8:9). In all of Francis’ life, love for the poor and the imitation of Christ in his poverty were inseparably united, like the two sides of the same coin.

What does Saint Francis’s witness tell us today? What does he have to say to us, not merely with words – that is easy enough – but by his life?

1. The first thing he tells us is this: 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’s journey to Christ begin? 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 San Damiano, as he prayed before the cross which I too will have an opportunity to venerate. On that cross, Jesus is depicted not as dead, but alive! Blood is flowing from his wounded hands, feet and side, but that blood speaks of life. Jesus’ eyes are not closed but open, wide open: he looks at us in a way that touches our hearts. The cross does not speak to us about defeat and failure; paradoxically, it speaks to us about a death which is life, a death which gives life, for it speaks to us of love, the love of God incarnate, a love which does not die, but triumphs over evil and death. When we let the crucified Jesus gaze upon us, we are re-created, we become "a new creation". Everything else starts with this: the experience of transforming grace, the experience of being loved for no merits of our own, in spite of our being sinners. That is why Saint Francis could say with Saint Paul: "Far be it for me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Gal 6:14).

We turn to you, Francis, and we ask you: Teach us to remain before the cross, to let the crucified Christ gaze upon us, to let ourselves be forgiven, and recreated by his love.

2. In today’s Gospel we heard these words: "Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart" (Mt 11:28-29).

This is the second witness that Francis gives us: that everyone who follows Christ receives true peace, the peace that Christ alone can give, a peace which the world cannot give. Many people, when they think of Saint Francis, think of peace; very few people however go deeper. What is the peace which Francis received, experienced and lived, and which he passes on to us? It is the peace of Christ, which is born of the greatest love of all, the love of the cross. It is the peace which the Risen Jesus gave to his disciples when he stood in their midst (cf. Jn 20:19-20).

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 not Franciscan, but a notion that 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 (cf. Jn 13:34; 15:12). This yoke cannot be borne with arrogance, presumption or pride, but only with meekness and humbleness of heart.

We turn to you, Francis, and we ask you: Teach us to be "instruments of peace", of that peace which has its source in God, the peace which Jesus has brought us.

3. Francis began the Canticle of the Creatures with these words: "Praised may you be, Most High, All-powerful God, good Lord… by all your creatures (FF, 1820). Love for all creation, for its harmony. Saint Francis of Assisi bears witness to the need to respect all that God has created and as he created it, without manipulating and destroying creation; rather to help it grow, to become more beautiful and more like what God created it to be. And above all, Saint Francis witnesses to respect for everyone, he testifies that each of us is called to protect our neighbour, that the human person is at the centre of creation, at the place where God – our creator – willed that we should be. Not at the mercy of the idols we have created! Harmony and peace! Francis was a man of harmony and peace. From this City of Peace, I repeat with all the strength and the meekness of love: 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.

We turn to you, Francis, and we ask you: Obtain for us God’s gift of harmony, peace and respect for creation!

Finally, I cannot forget the fact that today Italy celebrates Saint Francis as her patron saint. I greet all the Italian people, represented by the Head of Government, who is present among us. The traditional offering of oil for the votive lamp, which this year is given by the Region of Umbria, is an expression of this. Let us pray for Italy, that everyone will always work for the common good, and look more to what unites us, rather than what divides us.

I make my own the prayer of Saint Francis for Assisi, for Italy and for the world: "I pray to you, Lord Jesus Christ, Father of mercies: Do not look upon our ingratitude, but always keep in mind the surpassing goodness which you have shown to this City. Grant that it may always be the home of men and women who know you in truth and who glorify your most holy and glorious name, now and for all ages. Amen." (The Mirror of Perfection, 124: FF, 1824).

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Francis' Address to Young People in Assisi
A Response to Questions on Marriage, Work, Vocation and Mission

ASSISI, ITALY, October 07, 2013

* * *

At 5:30 pm, after crossing the Square in front of the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels, and greeting the awaiting young people, the Holy Father went into the Basilica and was received by the Custodian of the monastery of the Porciuncula, Father Fabrizio Migliasso, OFM, and the Religious Community. Also present was the Papal Legate for the Basilicas of Saint Francis and Saint Mary of the Angels, Cardinal Attilio Nicora.

After the visit and silent prayer at the Porcincula, at 6:15 pm Pope Francis met with young people of Umbria in the Square of the Basilica.

The Pope was greeted by the Archbishop of Spoleto-Norcia, Renato Boccardo, president of the Regional Commission of Youth Ministry, together with eight young people representing the eight Umbrian dioceses. Then some young people asked the Holy Father four questions on: the family, work, vocation and mission.

Here is a translation of the young people’s questions and of Pope Francis’ answers.

YOUNG PEOPLE’S QUESTIONS TO THE HOLY FATHER

1. FAMILY

Nicola and Chiara Volpi (Perugia-Citta della Pieve)

We live in a society where well-being is at the center, to amuse oneself and think of oneself. To live matrimony as young Christians is complex; to open oneself to life is a challenge and a frequent fear. As a young couple we feel the joy of living our marriage, but we experience the daily effort and challenges. How can the Church help us, how can our pastors support us, what steps are we also called to take?

2. WORK

Danilo Zampolini (Spoleto-Norcia) and David Girolami (Foligno)

The general economic crisis of these last years has also caused situations of hardship and poverty in Umbria. The future appears uncertain and menacing. The risk is also to lose hope, together with economic security. How should a young Christian look at the future? What path should we choose to build a society worthy of God and worthy of man?

3. VOCATION

Benedetto Fattorini (Orvieto-Todi) and Maria Chiaroli (Terni-Narni-Amelia)

What should I do in life? How and where should I use the talents that the Lord has given me?

Sometimes we are attracted by the idea of the priesthood or of consecrated life, but immediately fear arises. And then, such a commitment: “forever”. How can we recognize God’s call? What would you advise someone who wants to dedicate his life to the service of God and to brothers?

4. MISSION

Luca Nassuato (Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino), Mirko Pierli (Citta di Castello) and Petra Sannipoli (Gubbio)

It’s lovely to be here together with you and to hear your words which encourage us and warm our heart. The Year of Faith, which will end in a few weeks, proposed to all believers again the urgency of the proclamation of the Good News. We also want to take part in this exciting adventure. But how? What can our contribution be? What must we do?

THE HOLY FATHER’S ANSWERS

Dear Young People of Umbria, Good evening!

Thank you for coming, thank you for this celebration. This is really a celebration! And thank you for your questions.

I’m happy that the first question was that of a young couple – a beautiful witness! Two young people who have chosen, who decided, with joy and courage to form a family. Yes, because it is in fact true that you need courage to form a family! Courage is needed! And your question, young spouses, is linked to that of vocation. What is matrimony? It is a true and proper vocation, as are the priesthood and the religious life. Two Christians who marry have recognized in their history of love the call of the Lord, the vocation of two, male and female, to become only one flesh, only one life. And the Sacrament of Matrimony envelops this love with the grace of God, it roots it in God Himself. With this gift, with the certainty of this call, one can begin with certainty, there is no fear of anything, everything can be faced together!

We think of our parents, of our grandparents and great-grandparents: they were married in conditions that were much poorer than ours, some in time of war, or of post-war; some were emigrants, such as my parents. Where did they find the strength? They found it in the certainty that the Lord was with them, that the family is blessed by God with the Sacrament of Matrimony, and that the mission is blessed to bring children into the world and to educate them. With these certainties they surmounted even the hardest tests. They were simple but true certainties; they were the columns that supported their love. Their life wasn’t easy; there were problems, so many problems. But these simple certainties helped them to go forward. And they succeeded in making a beautiful family, in giving life, in seeing their children grow up.

Dear friends, this moral and spiritual basis is needed to build well -- solidly! Today this basis is no longer guaranteed by families and by social tradition. In fact, the society in which you were born privileges individual rights rather than the family – these individual rights -- it privileges relations that last so long as problems don’t arise, and because of this sometimes there is talk of the relationship of couples, of the family, of marriage in a superficial and mistaken way. Suffice to watch certain television programs and these values are seen! How many times a parish priest – I also heard it sometimes – receives a couple that comes to get married and says to them: “But do you know that marriage is for your whole life?” “O, we love one another so much, but … we will stay together as long as our love lasts. When it ends, one will go one way and the other another.” It is egoism: when I don’t feel it, I break the marriage and forget that “one flesh,” which cannot be divided. It’s risky to marry, it’s risky! It is egoism that menaces us, because within all of us there is the possibility of a double personality: one that says “I free, want this” … “I, me, with me, for me …” Always egoism, which turns away and is unable to open to others. The other difficulty is this culture of the provisional: it seems that nothing is definitive. Everything is provisional. As I said earlier: hum, love while it lasts. Once I heard a seminarian --who was good – who said: “I want to become a priest, but for ten years. Then I’ll think about it again.” It’s the culture of the provisional, and Jesus didn’t save us provisionally, he saved us definitively!

However, the Holy Spirit always elicits new answer to the new exigencies! And thus ways were multiplied in the Church for engaged couples, courses of preparation for Marriage, groups of young couples in parishes, family movements … They are a huge richness! They are points of reference for all: young who are seeking, couples in crisis, parents in difficulty with their children and vice versa. All are helped! And then there are the different forms of reception: entrustment, adoption, family-houses of various types … The imagination – I allow myself the word – the imagination of the Holy Spirit is infinite, but it’s also very concrete! Now I would like to say to you not to be afraid “to take definitive steps” – don’t be afraid to take them. How many times I’ve heard mothers say to me: “But, Father, I have a 30-year-old son who isn’t married: I don’t know what to do! He has a beautiful girlfriend, but he doesn’t decide.” But, Madam, don’t iron his shirts anymore! It’s like this! Don’t be afraid to take definitive steps, such as that of marriage: deepen your love, respecting the times and expressions, pray, prepare yourselves well, but then trust that the Lord doesn’t leave you alone! Make him come into your home as one of the family. He will always support you.

The family is the vocation that God has written in man’s and woman’s nature, but there is another vocation that is complementary to marriage: the call to celibacy and to virginity for the Kingdom of Heaven. It’s the vocation that Jesus himself lived. How can it be recognized? How can it be followed? It’s the third question you asked me. But some of you might think: how good this Bishop is! We asked the questions and he has the answers all ready, written! I received the questions a few days ago. That’s why I know them. And I answer you with two essential elements about how to recognize a vocation to the priesthood or to consecrated life. Pray and walk in the Church. These two things go together, they are intertwined. At the origin of consecrated life there is always an intense experience of God, an experience that isn’t forgotten, which is remembered throughout one’s life! It’s the one Francis had. We can’t calculate or plan this. God always surprises us! It’s God who calls, but it’s important to have a daily relationship with Him, to listen to Him in silence before the Tabernacle and in the depth of our being, to speak with Him, to approach the Sacraments. To have this familiar relationship with the Lord is like having the window of our life open, so He has us hear his voice, what he wants from us. It would be lovely to hear you, to hear the priests present here, the Sisters … It would be very lovely, because each story is unique, but they all begin from an encounter that illumines in depth, which touches the heart and involves the whole person: affection, intellect, senses, everything. The relationship with God is not about a part of ourselves, but the whole of ourselves. It’s such a great love, so beautiful, so true, that it merits all, it merits all our trust. And I would like to say something forcefully, especially today: virginity for the Kingdom of God isn’t a “no,” it’s a “yes”! Of course, it entails the giving up of a conjugal bond and one’s own family, but at the base there is the “yes,” as the answer to Christ’s total “yes” to us, and this “yes” renders one fruitful.

However, here at Assisi there is no need for words! Francis is here, Clare is here, they speak! Their charism continues to speak to so many young people in the whole world: young men and young women who leave everything to follow Jesus on the way of the Gospel.

So, Gospel. I would like to take up the word “Gospel” to answer the other two questions that you asked me, the second and the fourth. One is about the social commitment, in this period of crisis that menaces hope; and the other is about evangelization, taking Jesus’ proclamation to others. You asked me: what can we do? What can be our contribution?

Here at Assisi, here close to the Porciuncula, I seem to hear Saint Francis’ voice that repeats: “Gospel, Gospel!” He says it also to me, in fact, first to me: Pope Francis, be the servant of the Gospel! If I don’t succeed in being a servant of the Gospel, my life isn’t worth anything!

But the Gospel, dear friends, is not just about religion, it’s about man, the whole man, it’s about the world, society, human civilization. The Gospel is God’s message of salvation for humanity. However, when we say “message of salvation,” it’s not a way of saying things, they are not simple words or empty words of which there are so many today! Humanity is truly in need of being saved! We see it every day when we glance through the newspaper, or listen to the news on television; but we also see it around us, in persons, in situations; and we see it in ourselves! Every one of us is in need of salvation! We can’t do it alone! We are in need of salvation! Salvation from what? From evil, evil operates, it does its work. But evil isn’t invincible and the Christian is not resigned in face of evil. And you, young people, do you want to be resigned in face of evil, of injustices, of difficulties? Do you or don’t you? [The young people answered: No!] Ah, good. This pleases me! Our secret is that God is greater than evil: this is true! God is greater than evil. God is infinite love, limitless mercy. And this Love has defeated evil at the root in the Death and Resurrection of Christ. This is the Gospel, the Good News; God’s love has conquered! Christ died on the cross for our sins and he rose. We can fight against evil and conquer it with Him every day. Do we believe this or not? [Yes! The young people answered]. But this “yes” must be in our lives! If I believe that Jesus has conquered evil and saves me, I must follow Jesus, I must follow Jesus’ way my whole life.

Now this Gospel, this message of salvation, has two destinations that are linked: the first, to awaken faith, and this is evangelization; the second, to transform the world according to God’s plan, and this is the Christian animation of society. But they aren’t two separate things, they are one mission: to take the Gospel with the witness of our life transforms the world! This is the way: to take the Gospel with the witness of our life.

Let us look at Francis: he did both these things, with the sole force of the Gospel. Francis brought faith to grow, he renewed the Church and, at the same time, he renewed society, he made it more fraternal, but always with the Gospel, with his witness. You know what Francis said once to his Brothers? “Always preach the Gospel and if it’s necessary, use words!” But how? Can the Gospel be preached without words? Yes! With witness! First witness, then words! But witness!

Young people of Umbria: do this also! Today, in the name of Francis, I say to you: I don’t have gold or silver to give you, but something much more precious, the Gospel of Jesus. Go with courage! With the Gospel in your heart and in your hands; be witnesses of the faith with your life: take Christ to your homes, proclaim him among your friends, welcome him and serve him in the poor. Young people, give Umbria a message of life, of peace and of hope! You can do it!

Recitation of the Our Father and the Blessing

And please, I ask you, pray for me!

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Francis' Address to Pastoral Councils, Clergy in Assisi
"What a great gift it is to be the Church, to be part of the People of God!"

ASSISI, ITALY, October 07, 2013 - Here is a translation of the address Pope Francis gave Friday during his trip to Assisi, to clergy and consecrated people.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters of the diocesan Community, good afternoon!

I thank you for your welcome, priests, men and women religious, laity working in the Pastoral Councils! How necessary the Pastoral Councils are! A Bishop cannot lead a diocese without the Pastoral Councils. A parish priest cannot lead a parish without the Pastoral Councils. This is fundamental! We are in the Cathedral! Kept here is the baptismal font where Saint Francis and Saint Clare were baptized, which at that time was in the church of Saint Mary. The memory of our Baptism is important! Baptism is our birth as children of Mother Church. I would like to ask you a question: which of you knows the date of his/her Baptism? Few! Few! … Now, a task for you at home! Mother, Dad, tell me: when was I baptized? But it is important, because it’s the day of your birth as a child of God. Only one Spirit, only one Baptism in the variety of charisms and ministries. What a great gift it is to be the Church, to be part of the People of God! We are all the People of God. In the harmony, in the communion of the diversities, which is the work of the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit is harmony and creates harmony: it is His gift and we must be open to receive it!

The Bishop is the custodian of this harmony. The Bishop is a custodian of this gift of harmony in diversity. Because of this, Pope Benedict wanted the pastoral activity in the Franciscan Papal Basilicas to be integrated with the diocesan activity. Because <the Bishop> must create harmony: it’s his task, it’s his duty and his vocation. And he has a special gift to create it. I am happy that you are advancing well on this path, with benefit for all, collaborating together with serenity, and I encourage you to continue. The Pastoral Visit which has just concluded and the diocesan Synod that you are about to hold are intense moments of growth for this Church, which God has blessed in a particular way. The Church grows by attraction, the attraction of the witness that each one of us gives to the People of God.

I would now like to stress briefly some aspects of your Community life. I don’t want to tell you new things, but to confirm you in the most important, which characterize your diocesan journey.

The first thing is to listen to the Word of God. The Church is this: the community – the Bishop said it – the community that listens with faith and with love to the Lord who speaks. The pastoral plan you are living together insists, in fact, on this fundamental dimension. It is the Word of God that awakens faith, nourishes it, and regenerates it. It is the Word of God that touches hearts, converts them to God and to His logic, which is so different from ours; it is the Word of God that renews our communities continually.

I think we can all improve a bit in this aspect: to become greater listeners of the Word of God, to be less rich in our words and richer in His words. I think of the priest, who has the task of preaching. How can he preach if he has not first opened his heart, has not listened, in silence, to the Word of God? Away with these interminable, boring homilies, of which nothing is understood. This is for you! I think of a mother and father, who are the first educators: how can they educate if their conscience isn’t illumined by the Word of God, if their way of thinking and acting isn’t guided by the Word. What example can they give their children? This is important because then the mother and father lament “this child …” But you, what witness have you given him? About what have you talked to him, about the Word of God or about the word of the television news? Fathers and Mothers must now speak of the Word of God! And I think of catechists, of all educators: if their heart is not warmed by the Word, how can they warm the hearts of others, of children, of young people, of adults? It’s not enough to read the Sacred Scriptures; we must listen to Jesus who speaks in them: it is precisely Jesus who speaks in the Scriptures; it is Jesus who speaks in them. We must be like antenna that receive, attuned to the Word of God, we must be antenna that transmit! We receive and we transmit. It’s the Spirit of God that renders alive the Scriptures, makes them understood in depth, in their true and full meaning! Let us ask ourselves, as one of the questions to the Synod: what place does the Word of God have in my life, in my everyday life? Am I attuned to God or to the many words in fashion or to myself? It is a question that each one of us must ask him/herself.

The second aspect is that of walking. It’s one of the words I prefer when I think of a Christian and of the Church. But it has a particular meaning for you: you are beginning the diocesan Synod, and to hold a “synod” means to walk together. I think this is truly the most beautiful experience that we live: to be part of a people that is walking, walking in history, together with our Lord, who walks in our midst! We are not isolated, we do not walk alone, but we are part of the one flock of Christ that walks together.

Here I think also of you priests, and let me place myself also with you. What is more beautiful for us than to walk with our people? It’s beautiful! When I think of those parish priests who knew the name of the persons of the parish, who went to seek them, just as one of them said to me: “I know the name of the dog of every family,” they even knew the name of the dog! How lovely it was! What is there that is more beautiful? I repeat it often: walk with our people, sometimes in front, sometimes in the middle and sometimes behind: in front to lead the community; in the middle to encourage and support it; behind to keep it united so that no one is too far behind, to keep it united and also for another reason: because the people have the “scent”! They have the scent of finding new paths for walking, they have the “sensus fidei,” that the theologians say they have. What is there that is more beautiful? And in the Synod we must also know what the Holy Spirit says to the laity, to the People of God, to all.

But the most important thing is to walk together, collaborating, helping one another; to ask for pardon, to acknowledge one’s mistakes and to ask for pardon, but also to accept others’ pardons by pardoning them – how important this is! Sometimes I think of married couples that separate after many years. Alas … no, we don’t understand one another, we are estranged.” Perhaps they haven’t asked for pardon in time. Perhaps they were unable to forgive in time. And I always give newlyweds this advice: “Quarrel as much as you like. If plates fly, let them fly. But never end the day without making peace! Never! And if married couples learn to say ”Sorry, I was tired,” or just a little gesture: this is peace; and take up life again the next day. This is a great secret, and it avoids those painful separations. How important it is to walk united without fleeing beforehand, without nostalgias of the past. And while walking, talk, get to know one another, talk to one another, grow in being a family. Here we must ask ourselves: how do we walk? How does our diocesan reality walk? Does it walk together? And what do I do so that it will truly walk together? I don’t want to enter here in the argument of gossip, but you know that gossip always divides!

So to listen, to walk and the third aspect is missionary: to proclaim as far as the fringes. I have taken this also from you, from your pastoral plans. The Bishops spoke to me about it recently. But I want to stress it, also because it is an element that I lived a lot when I was at Buenos Aires: the importance of going out to meet the other, in the fringes, which are places, but above all they are persons in special situations of life. It’s the case of the diocese I had before, that of Buenos Aires. A fringe that made me feel very badly was to find, in middle class families, children who could not make the sign of the cross. But this is a fringe! And I ask you: here, in this diocese, are there children who cannot make the sign of the cross? Think about it. These are real existential fringes, where God is not.

In a first sense, the fringes of this diocese, for instance, are the areas of the diocese that risk being marginalized, beyond the beams of the spotlights. But they are also persons, human realities that are in fact marginalized, scorned. They are persons who perhaps are physically close to the “center,” but spiritually far away.

Do not be afraid to go out to meet these persons, these situations. Don’t allow yourselves to be blocked by prejudices, habits, mental or pastoral rigidities, by the famous “it has always been done this way!” But you can only go to the fringes if you take the Word of God in your heart and if you walk with the Church, like Saint Francis. Otherwise we take ourselves, not the Word of God, and this isn’t good, it doesn’t help anyone. We are not the ones who save the world: it is the Lord who saves it!

See, dear friends, I haven’t given you any new recipes. I don’t have them and don’t believe anyone who says that he has them: there aren’t any. However, I have found in the journey of your Church beautiful and important aspects that are going to make you grow and I want to confirm you in them. Listen to the Word, walk together in fraternity, proclaim the Gospel in the fringes. May the Lord bless you, Our Lady protect you and Saint Francis help everyone to live the joy of being disciples of the Lord. Thank you.

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Francis' Address to the Poor Clares
"Contemplation Always ... And Community Life Always"

ASSISI, ITALY, October 07, 2013 - Here is a translation of the address Pope Francis gave Friday, during his trip to Assisi, to the Poor Clare sisters.

The Holy Father Francis arrived at the Basilica of Saint Clare shortly after 4:15 pm. After venerating the Saint’s body in the crypt of the Basilica, he paused in silent prayer before the Crucifix of San Damiano, in the Choir’s Chapel.

Present in the Choir’s Chapel were the Cardinal advisers who arrived with him to Assisi. The Pope then met with the Poor Clare cloistered nuns and addressed to them the words we translate below:

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I thought that this meeting was going to be as it was twice at Castel Gandolfo, in the Chapter Room, alone with the Sisters, but I confess to you, I don’t have the courage to send the Cardinals away. So let’s hold it like this.

Well, I thank you so much for your welcome and for your prayer for the Church. When a cloistered Sister consecrates her whole life to the Lord, a transformation occurs that one can never fully understand. Our normal thinking would be that this Sister becomes isolated, alone with the Absolute, alone with God; hers is an ascetic, penitent life. But this isn’t the way of a Catholic cloistered Sister, it is not even Christian. The way goes through Christ Jesus. Christ is always at the center of your life, of your penance, of your community life, of your prayer and also of the universality of prayer. And what happens on this way is contrary to what is thought is an ascetic cloistered Sister. When she goes on the path of contemplation of Jesus Christ, of prayer and of penance with Jesus Christ, she becomes greatly human. Cloistered Sisters are called to have great humanity, a humanity like that of Mother Church; human, understanding all things of life, being persons who are able to understand human problems, who are able to forgive, who are able to pray to the Lord for people. Your humanity comes on this way, the Incarnation of the Word, the way of Jesus Christ. And what is the sign of such a human Sister? Joy, joy, when there is joy! It makes me sad when I see Sisters who are not joyful. Perhaps they smile, but with the smile of a flight attendant. But not with the smile of joy, of that which comes from within, always with Jesus Christ. Speaking of the Crucified, I said in the Mass today that Francis contemplated him with open eyes, with open wounds, with the blood that ran down. And this is your contemplation: reality -- the reality of Jesus Christ. Not abstract ideas, not abstract ideas, because they dry the head. Contemplation of the wounds of Jesus Christ! And it carried him to Heaven, it did! It is the way of the humanity of Jesus Christ: always with Jesus, the God-Man. And because of this, it’s so lovely when people go to the parlous of convents and ask for prayers, and express their problems. Perhaps the Sister doesn’t say anything extraordinary, but a word that comes to her in fact from the contemplation of Jesus Christ, because the Sister, as the Church, is on the way of being an expert in humanity. And this is your way: not too spiritual! When they are too spiritual, I think of the founder of the convents of your “competition,” Saint Teresa, for instance. When a Sister came to her, ugh, with these things … she said to the cook: “give her a beefsteak!” Always with Jesus Christ, always. The humanity of Jesus Christ! Because the Word came in the flesh, God became flesh for us, and this will give you a human sanctity, great, beautiful, mature -- the holiness of a mother. And the Church wants you like this: mothers, mother, mother -- to give life. When you pray, for instance, for priests, for seminarians you have a maternal relation with them; with prayer you help them to become good Pastors of the People of God. But remember Saint Teresa’s beefsteak! It’s important. And this is the first thing: always with Jesus Christ, the wounds of Jesus Christ, the wounds of the Lord, because it’s a reality that he had and bore after the Resurrection.

And the second thing I would like to say to you, briefly, is about community life. Forgive each other; support one another because community life is not easy. The devil takes advantage of everything to divide! He says: “I don’t want to speak badly, but …” and division begins. No, this is not on, because it doesn’t lead to anything, <it leads> to division. Look after the friendship between you, family life, love among you. And may the convent not be a Purgatory, but a family. There are problems, there will be problems, but, as handled in a family, with love; seek the solution with love; don’t destroy the latter to resolve the former; don’t have competition. Take care of community life, because when community life is like this, like a family, it is in fact the Holy Spirit who is in the midst of the community. These are the two things I would like to say to you: contemplation always, always with Jesus; Jesus, God and Man. And community life always with a big heart, letting things be, not boasting, enduring everything, smiling from the heart. It is the sign that there is joy. And I ask this joy of you, which is born in fact from true contemplation and beautiful community life. Thank you! Thank you for your hospitality. I ask you, please, to pray for me, don’t forget to do so! Before the Blessing, we pray to Our Lady: Hail Mary …

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