Shortly before 7:00 am today, Pope Francis left by helicopter from the Vatican heliport to go on a pastoral visit to Assisi. Among the members of his entourages were the eight Cardinals chosen to advise him on the government of the universal Church.
When the helicopter landed at 7:25 am in the sports field of the Seraphic Institute of Assisi, the Pope was welcomed by the Archbishop-Bishop of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino, H.E. Monsignor Domenico Sorrentino, by the President of the Umbria Region, the Honorable Catiuscia Marini, by the Ambassador of Italy to the Holy See, H.E. Francesco Maria Greco, by the Apostolic Nuncio in Italy, H.E. Monsignor Adriano Bernardini, by the Prefect of Perugia, Doctor Antonio Reppucci, by the Mayor of Assisi, Doctor Claudio Ricci, and by the President of the Province of Perugia, Doctor Marco Vinicio Guasticchi.
Then Pope Francis walked to the Seraphic Institute where he met in the chapel with disabled and sick children, guests of the Institute.
After the words of welcome of the Mayor of Assisi, Doctor Claudio Ricci, and the presentation of the reality of the Seraphic Institute by the President, Doctor Francesca di Maolo, the Pope gave an impromptu address to those present. Here is a translation:
* * *
We are among the wounds of Jesus, you said Mrs. <di Maolo>. You also said that these wounds are in need of being heard, of being recognized. And coming to my mind is when the Lord Jesus was going on the way with those two sad disciples. In the end, the Lord Jesus made his wounds seen and they recognized Him, then the bread, where He was there. My brother Domenico told me that Adoration takes place here. That bread is also in need of being heard, because Jesus is present and hidden behind the simplicity and meekness of bread. And here Jesus is hidden in these youngsters, in these children, and these persons. On the altar we adore Jesus’ Flesh; in them we find Jesus’ wounds, Jesus hidden in the Eucharist and Jesus hidden in these wounds. They are in need of being heard! Perhaps not so much in newspapers, as news; that is a listening that lasts one, two, three days, then something else happens, something else. Jesus’ wounds must be recognized. And today, all of us here have the need to say: “These wounds must be heard!” However, there is something else that gives us hope. Jesus is present in the Eucharist, the Flesh of Jesus is here; Jesus is present among you, it is Jesus’ Flesh: they are Jesus’ wounds in these persons.
But it’s interesting: when He rose Jesus was very beautiful. He did not have bruises, sores on his body … nothing! He was most beautiful! He only wished to keep the wounds, and he took them to Heaven. Jesus’ wounds are here and they are in Heaven before the Father. We cure Jesus’ wounds here and He, from Heaven, shows us his wounds and says to all of us, to all of us: “I’m waiting for you!” So be it.
May the Lord bless you all. May his love descend upon us, may He walk with us; may Jesus tell us that these wounds are His and may He help us to give them voice, because we Christians hear them.
Below is a translation of the text of the address Pope Francis prepared for this occasion:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I wish to begin my visit to Assisi with you, I greet you all! Today is the feast of Saint Francis, and as Bishop of Rome, I chose to bear his name. See why I am here today: my visit is above all a pilgrimage of love, to pray at the tomb of a man who despoiled himself of himself and clothed himself in Christ and, following Christ’s example, loved all, especially the poorest and most abandoned. He loved God’s creation with wonder and simplicity. On arriving here at Assisi, at the doors of the city, one finds this Institute, which is called in fact “Seraphic,” a nickname of Saint Francis. It was founded by a great Franciscan, Blessed Ludovico da Casoria.
And it’s right to begin from here. In his Testament, Saint Francis says: “The Lord said to me, brother Francis, begin to do penance like this: when I was in sins it seemed to me something too bitter to see lepers: and the Lord himself led me among them and exercised mercy. And, distancing myself from them, what seemed to me bitter was changed into sweetness of spirit and body” (FF, 110).
Unfortunately, society is polluted by the “throw away” culture, which is opposed to the culture of hospitality. And the victims of the throw away culture are in fact the weakest and most fragile persons. In this House, instead, I see in action the culture of hospitality. Of course even here not everything will be perfect, but there is collaboration together for the worthy life of persons with grave difficulties. Thank you for this sign of love that you offer us: this is the sign of true human and Christian civilization! To put at the center of social and political attention the most disadvantaged persons! Sometimes instead the families find themselves alone in taking charge of them. What should be done? From this place, in which concrete love is seen, I say to all: let us multiply the works of the culture of hospitality, works first of all animated by profound Christian love, love of Christ Crucified, of the flesh of Christ, works in which professionalism, qualified work justly remunerated is united with volunteer work, a precious treasure.
To serve with love and with tenderness persons who are in need of so much help makes us grow in humanity, because they are true resources of humanity. Saint Francis was a rich youth; he had ideals of glory, but in the person of that leper, Jesus spoke to him in silence, and changed him, made him understand what is really worthwhile in life: not riches, the force of arms, earthly glory, but humility, mercy and forgiveness.
Dear brothers and sisters, I wish to read here something personal, one of the most beautiful letters I have received, a gift of the love of Jesus. Nicolas wrote it to me, a 16-year-old boy, disabled since birth, who lives in Buenos Aires. I will read it: “Dear Francis: I am Nicolas and I am 16; as I cannot write you (because I don’t yet talk, and don’t walk), I’ve asked my parents to do so in my place, because they are the persons who know me most. I would like to tell you that when I was 6 years old, in my school which is called Aedin, Father Paul gave me my First Communion and this year, in November, I will be Confirmed, something that gives me great joy. Every night, since you asked me, I ask my Guardian Angel, who is called Eusebius and who is very patient, to guard and help you. Be sure that he does so very well because he takes care of me and accompanies me every day! Ah! And when I cannot sleep … he comes to play with me! I would very much like to come to see you and to receive your Blessing and a kiss: only this! I send you many greetings and continue to ask Eusebius to take care of you and to give you strength, Kisses. NICO.”
In this letter, in this boy’s heart there is beauty, love, the poetry of God. God who reveals himself to those who have a simple heart, to the little ones, to the humble, to those who we often consider the least, you also, dear friends: when that boy can’t fall asleep he plays with his Guardian Angel; it is God who comes down to play with him.
In the Chapel of this Institute, the Bishop wished that there would be permanent Eucharistic Adoration: the same Jesus that we adore in the Sacrament, we find in the most fragile brother, from whom we learn, without barriers and complications, that God loves us with simplicity of heart.
Thank you all for this meeting. I carry you with me, in affection and in prayer. But you also pray for me! May the Lord bless you and Our Lady and Saint Francis protect you.
After having left the Chapel of the Seraphic Institute, the Holy Father, appearing at a window, addressed the following words to the persons outside the building:
Good morning! I greet you. Thank you so much for all this. And pray for all the children, the youngsters, the persons who are here, for all those who work here, for them.