Pope St. Celestine V and St. Francis of Assisi both felt the need to give people the greatest gift: God’s mercy and forgiveness, Pope Francis has told a large crowd in Isernia.
Addressing pilgrims in the town square this evening at the end of his pastoral visit to the Molise region in south-central Italy, the Holy Father said that like Saint Francis of Assisi, Celestine V “had a very strong sense of God’s mercy, and the fact that God’s mercy renews the world.”
The Pope came to Isernia to proclaim the Jubilee Year of the 13th century Pope who was born in the town just over 800 years ago. Pietro del Morrone, who later took the papal name of Celestine, was the most recent pontiff to resign the papacy of his own accord until Benedict XVI stood down last year.
Elected Successor of Peter on 5th July, 1294 — 720 years to the day — he resigned on 13th December of the same year, and was canonized in 1313. He died in 1296.
Noting how close both Francis of Assisi and Pietro del Morrone were to the people, the Pope said they had “the same compassion of Jesus for the many exhausted and oppressed persons.”
But he added they did not limit themselves to dispense good advice or pious consolations. “Above all was the fact they made a choice of a life against the current, they chose to entrust themselves to the Providence of the Father,” the Pope said.
The Pope said he has always been struck by their strong compassion for the people, and that these saints “felt the need to give the people the greatest thing: the Father’s mercy, forgiveness.”
Francis went on to stress that mercy, indulgence, the remission of debts, is not just something devotional, intimate, a spiritual palliative. “No! It is the prophecy of a new world,” he said, “in which the goods of the earth and of work are fairly distributed and no one is deprived of what is necessary, because solidarity and sharing are the concrete consequence of fraternity.”
The Pope called the Jubilee Year “very timely”, opening wide the door of Divine Mercy for all.
“It is not a flight, it is not an evasion of reality and its problems,” he said. “It is the answer that comes from the Gospel: love as force of purification of consciences, force of renewal of social relations, force of planning for a different economy, which puts the person, work and family at the center rather than money and profit.”
This is not the way of the world, he continued, adding that Christians are “not dreamers, naïve, nor do we wish to create oases outside of the world.” But he said instead, a Christian believes this is the only way for the good of all, one that “brings us close to justice and peace.”
Recalling the temptation to conform ourselves to the mentality of the world, he urged the faithful to entrust themselves to God’s mercy and grace, “to bear fruits of conversion and works of mercy.”
“May the Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, accompany and support us always on this way,” he said.
The Pope delivered his discourse after a meeting with 60 prisoners, and then meeting and blessing the sick in Isernia cathedral. On leaving the cathedral, the Pope blessed a statue of Saint John the Evangelist, which the diocese gave for the re-opening of the Cathedral of Smirne and a crown for the statue of Our Lady of Peace of the diocesan Shrine of Fragnete.
Before the final blessing, at 6:15 p.m., the Pope and the crowd prayed the Our Father and he offered them a plenary indulgence. “And please pray for me!,” the Pope added while young pilgrims chanted his name: “Fran-ces-co! Fran-ces-co!” before singing:” Holy Father, thank you! “
The Pope also shook hands and blessed children before leaving Isernia to return to the Vatican by helicopter.
Benedict XVI had in some ways rehabilitated St. Celestine V, whom Dante placed in hell in his Divine Comedy because he had renounced the burdens of the Successor of Peter. Benedict visited his tomb in L’Aquila in 2009.
On ZENIT’s webpage:
Full text of Pope Francis’ discourse: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-francis-address-to-proclaim-jubilee-year-of-pope-st-celestine-v