STEFANO RELLANDINI ASSOCIATED PRESS Pope Francis smiles at a child upon arriving in Assisi on the feast day of St. Francis, a 13th-century friar who ministered to the poor.
Francis visits tomb of namesake
By Elisabetta Povoledo THE NEW YORK TIMES
ASSISI, Italy — It was clear from the moment Pope Francis began his first visit to the town of Assisi that he would use personal, intimate gestures to send a strong message to the world at large.
- In the room where St. Francis famously stripped off his clothes to dedicate his life to Christ and live in poverty, the pope warmly addressed a group of poor people challenged “by this savage world that doesn’t give work, doesn’t help, doesn’t care if there are children in the world who are dying of hunger.”
Then, in an impromptu moment, he appealed to the Roman Catholic Church and to all Christians to divest themselves of worldliness, which leads to “vanity, arrogance and pride,” because “it is bad for us,” he said. “It is the cancer of society and the enemy of Christ.”
With more than 1,000 journalists present, Francis spread a message that would have reverberated with St. Francis, who supposedly was entrusted nearly 800 years ago by God to “repair my house.”
Referring to a day of national mourning yesterday for at least 110 migrants who died in a shipwreck on Thursday off the Italian island of Lampedusa, the pope said: “Today is a day of tears. Such things go against the spirit of the world.”
The pope’s carefully choreographed pilgrimage to the hilltop town of Assisi on the feast day of St. Francis retraced the footsteps of a holy man beloved throughout the world and widely respected even among people of other faiths.
The pope visited the site — now a shrine — where the saint is said to have heard the voice of Jesus and been converted. He prayed before the tomb where the saint is buried and in the lower church of the frescoed Basilica. The pontiff was scheduled to visit the hovel where the saint lived and the hermitage where he prayed.
I continue to be deeply touched by all that I read and see relevant to Pope Francis. Tho not a member of this church, nevertheless Francis message continues to draw my heart in response to his fervent passion. One wishes that all Christians everywhere would open their hearts to this pious man’s prayer — how much sweeter our world could be. Jan)