Pope Francis made his way to Assisi this morning, following the footsteps of his namesake by visiting the poor. Following his visit to various Franciscan centers, the Holy Father celebrated Mass in front of the Basilica of St. Francis where thousands of pilgrims from Italy and the world gathered to catch a glimpse of the Pope.
Fr. Gianluca, a parish priest from Salerno, traveled to Assisi with a group of 50 pilgrims from various parishes, who he said were “at the end of a journey of faith.” The Italian priest said that despite the massive crowds, he was impressed with the organization of the event and flow of pilgrims.
“We left at 2 in the morning, and we arrived here at 4am. The local authorities gave us permission to do a candlelight walk from Santa Maria degli Angeli all the way to San Damiano,” he said. There, the Italian pilgrims had the possibility to pray in the church containing the famed Cross of San Damiano, where St. Francis of Assisi received the call from Christ: “Francis, rebuild my Church, which is falling into ruins.”
“We prayed for the elderly priests and those who have passed away,” Fr. Gianluca told ZENIT. “We then walked to the site of the Mass. The pilgrims are very happy that they had the possibility to do this.”
The Holy Father in most of his addresses today spoke off the cuff. During his speech at the Seraphic Institute, the Holy Father spoke frankly on the necessity of the Church “to strip itself of worldliness.”
Fr. Gianluca said the Pope’s words, delivered in the room where St. Francis stripped himself of his riches and embraced “Lady Poverty,” touched him in a particular way. “Everyone, Christians, religious, priests, bishops, cardinals, the Pope; we are fools if we are not poor. This is important,” Fr. Gianluca said.
“For one to divest themselves, as Pope Francis suggested, means to always be generous,” he continued. “One’s vocation to the consecrated life can be one way of being as generous as possible, that is, giving one’s life completely. Then there are those who take care and sustain, in a faithful way, schools, the poor of their community, the sick.”
While the fruits of Pope Francis’ visit will surely be seen in the coming days and years, Fr. Gianluca noted how the impact of Pope Francis’ ascension to the papacy after Benedict XVI’s surprise resignation shows God’s action in today’s world.
“Some say that Pope Francis had almost won the election during the conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI,” he said. “I, in turn, believe that God knows how to do things well.
“If Pope Benedict had not been elected, he would not have fulfilled the true revolution of the Church, to show that becoming Pope is a ministry.
“Today, he concluded, I pray so much for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI because, through his resignation, he allowed us the possibility to have Pope Francis and thus, allowed us to be present in this new history that the Lord is fashioning.”