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”

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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.

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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, 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; t
he 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!

[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]
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