Pope’s Assisi Visit Marks 800th Anniversary of St. Francis’ Conversion

HNP Communications Franciscan World

ASSISI — During his June visit to Assisi, Italy, Pope Benedict  XVI revealed the secret that has made St. Francis a figure who continues to fascinate the contemporary world, according to the July issue of Fraternitas. The publication of the Order of Friars Minor reports that this secret is love.

The pilgrimage of the Pope recalled the 800 years since the conversion of the founder of the Franciscan Order.

It was St. Francis’ conversion to Christ — his desire to transform himself into Christ and to become a complete image of him — that exemplifies the saint’s virtuous lifestyle. “… He appears to us as very contemporary even in respect to the great themes of our times,” according to Fraternitas.

Among his many activities on June 17, Pope Benedict visited the Church of San Damiano, as well as the Basilica of St. Clare, and the tomb of St. Francis, and met with a group of German-born Capuchin Poor Clares, and the community of the Sacro Conento

He delivered a message to the General Chapter of the Order of Friars Minor Conventuals in the Basilica of St. Francis in which he underlined the modern-day relevance of the experiences of the great saint. St. Francis “understood himself entirely in light of the Gospel” and from this “comes the perpetual authenticity of his example,” the Holy Father said. He continued: “His ‘prophecy’ teaches us to make the Gospel our criterion in facing the challenges of all ages, including our own, resisting the deceptive lure of passing fashions to root ourselves in God’s plan and thus discern the true needs of mankind.”

The pope invited Franciscans to “thank God for the development of  the order, above all in mission countries,” according to the newsletter of the  Province of the Sacred Heart.

Zenit news service reported that the pope affirmed that the spirit of Assisi is not syncretism. (Syncretism consists of the attempt to reconcile disparate or contradictory beliefs, often while melding practices of various schools of thought.) This was one of the main messages during the German Pope’s pilgrimage to the city of the saint.

He said, “I cannot forget, in the context of today’s celebration, the initiative of my predecessor of holy memory, John Paul II, who in 1986, brought together here the representatives of the Christian churches and other religions of the world, for a meeting of prayer for peace,” said Benedict XVI at the end of his homily during the Mass celebrated in the lower square outside the Basilica of St. Francis.