Papal Mass draws thousands in Assisi
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis called for an end to armed conflict and clarified the notion of Franciscan peace during the Mass he presided for the feast of St. Francis on Friday in Assisi.
A few thousand people gathered for the late morning celebration in St. Francis Square, situated before the world-famous shrine dedicated to the patron saint of the poor.
The Pope celebrated at a simple altar, behind which stood a giant two-bar wooden cross and on which hung a representation of the San Damiano Cross. St. Francis was praying before the San Damiano Cross when Jesus commissioned him to rebuild the Church.
Preaching his homily from the ambo, the Pope underlined the relevant witness St. Francis continues to offer.
“His first and most essential witness 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,” he said.
“Where did Francis’ journey to Christ begin? It began with the gaze of the crucified Jesus,” he said. “With letting Jesus look at us at the very moment that he gives his life for us and draws us to himself. …When we let the crucified Jesus gaze upon us, we are re-created, we become ‘a new creation’.”
NOT A PANTHEISTIC PEACE
St. Francis also teaches “that everyone who follows Christ receives true peace”, which only Christ can give and the world cannot.
Many people associate St. Francis with peace, however their understanding of this peace is not profound. “Franciscan peace is not something saccharine,” he said emphatically.
“Hardly! That is not the real St. Francis! Nor is it a kind of pantheistic harmony with forces of the cosmos… That is not Franciscan either,” he continued to applause. “It is a notion some people have invented!
“The peace of St. 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,” he said.
RESPECT FOR LIFE
Finally, he said, St. Francis “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.”
“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,” he said.
He called for an end to armed conflict and for care for those who are suffering and dying because of violence, terrorism or war in the Holy Land, in Syria, throughout the Middle East and worldwide.
He concluded by petitioning St. Francis to obtain the gift of God’s harmony and peace for the world.
Before the final blessing, a special votive lamp, dedicated to St. Francis and filled with oil from the local region, was lit. The Pope then prayed a special prayer for Italy, of whom St. Francis is the patron.
Report by Laura Ieraci