Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi Celebrates 750th Anniversary

Cardinal Re Presides Over Mass

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ASSISI, Italy, MAY 24, 2004 ( The Franciscans of Assisi organized five days of prayer and music to help mark the 750th anniversary of the foundation of the Basilica of St. Francis.

It was on May 25, 1253, when Pope Innocent IV ordered the construction of the basilica, with the intention of attracting «young people to evangelical and Franciscan values.»

On Sunday, from the Vatican, John Paul II transmitted a greeting through his special envoy to Assisi, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, to the bishop of Assisi, the religious families, the authorities and the faithful there.

«I unite myself to the common prayer to invoke the intercession of the holy patron of Italy on the whole nation, so that it will be able to look forward to a future of hope, open to concord and solidarity,» the Pope said.

During the Mass at which he presided Sunday, Cardinal Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, highlighted the timeliness of St. Francis’ (1182-1226) message, which «continues to shine in a society such as today’s, attacked by terrorism, war and violation of human rights.»

In the basilica, crowded with the faithful and with dignitaries, the cardinal emphasized that «the ideal of love lived by Francis proposes again to each person and to peoples the need for a genuine dialogue in truth and justice,» Vatican Radio reported.

Father Vincenzo Coli, custodian of the Sacred Monastery of Assisi, explained the meaning of the anniversary initiatives.

«If the vision of the world passes through the beauty of art and music, goodness and truth, it is possible to recover a positive perception of the world,» he said.

Among the participants in the programs that ended Sunday were singers and actors. There was a concert, academic conferences, and times for prayer. Collections were also taken up for the peoples of Zambia and Malawi.

After Rome, Assisi is the city most visited by John Paul II during his pontificate. He has gone there six times, convoking prayer meetings for peace with world religious leaders.

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