Benedict XVI Notes Ecclesial Spirit of St. Francis

Says the Gospel Was the Founder’s Rule of Life

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, APRIL 20, 2009 ( Benedict XVI is affirming that the «charm» and «enduring relevance» of St. Francis stems from his life centered around the Gospel, by which he attracts many people to Christ.

The Pope said this Saturday at the pontifical residence at Castel Gandolfo, in an audience with members of the Franciscan family concluding their «Chapter of Mats,» which began in Assisi on Wednesday. The gathering was organized on the occasion of the eighth centenary of the approval of the monastic rule of St. Francis by Pope Innocent III.

Reflecting on the conversion of the saint, the Pontiff noted that he «experienced the power of divine grace and he is as one who has died and risen,» motivating him to leave all of his «previous wealth, any source of pride and security.»

He added: «The leaving of everything at that point becomes almost necessary to express the abundance of the gift received. A gift so great as to require a total detachment, which itself is not enough; it requires a entire life lived according to the form of the holy Gospel.»

Thus, the Holy Father stated, the «rule and life of the Friars Minor is this, to observe the holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.»

Francis, he affirmed, «defined himself entirely in the light of the Gospel.» He added: «This is his charm. This is his enduring relevance.»

Thus, Benedict XVI said, St. Francis «has become a living gospel, able to attract to Christ men and women of all ages, especially young people, who prefer radical idealism to half-measures.»

In the Church

He stated, «Charism and institution are always complementary for the edification of the Church.»

The Pontiff observed that like many religious groups and movements forming during that time, «Francis could have also not gone to the Pope.»

<p>He continued: «Certainly a polemical attitude towards the hierarchy would have won Francis many followers.

«Instead, he immediately thought to put his journey and that of his companions into the hands of the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter. This fact reveals his true ecclesial spirit.»

The Holy Father added: «And the Pope recognized and appreciated this. The Pope, in fact, on his part, could have not approved the project of the life of Francis.»

He acknowledged the intent of the Franciscans to «renew this gesture of your founder,» eight centuries later.


Benedict XVI urged his listeners, «While you praise and thank the Lord who has called you to be part of such a great and beautiful family, stay attentive to what the Spirit says to it today, in each of its components, to continue to proclaim with passion the Kingdom of God, the footsteps of your seraphic father.»

He encouraged them to «see the face of Christ in our brothers and sisters who suffer and bring to all his peace.»

Concluding, the Pope said, «Go and continue to repair the house of the Lord Jesus Christ, his Church.»

He continued: «Like Francis, always start with yourselves. We are the first house that God wants to restore.

«If you are always able to renew yourselves in the spirit of the Gospel, you will continue to assist the pastors of the Church to make more and more beautiful the Church’s face, that of the bride of Christ. The Pope, now the same as then, expects this of you.»

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