Benedict XVI to Visit Assisi in June
Amid Franciscans' 8th Centenary Celebrations
ASSISI, Italy, DEC. 18, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI plans to make a pastoral visit next June to Assisi, Italy, the birthplace of St. Francis, says the local prelate.
This is expressed in a letter dated Dec. 8, from Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino, in which he announced "with great joy" that on Sunday, June 17, the Pope will visit the city and the diocesan community.
"We praise the Lord and express our heartfelt thanks to the Holy Father, who thus manifests his affection for us and his special interest in the mission of Assisi, the Poverello's city, in the Church and in the world," said the prelate.
The papal visit will take place in a special year, as the period October 2006 to October 2007 is the "Year of Conversion," inspired by the eighth centenary of Francis' conversion.
"Several times during these months the Holy Father has spoken of St. Francis, underlining precisely the perspective of his conversion to Christ as the key to read his life, his message, and his timeliness," recalled Archbishop Sorrentino of Assisi-Nocera.
So the Pope's presence and teaching in Assisi "will give us light and from now on, the expectation of this event stimulates us to live our spiritual and pastoral program with enthusiasm, in harmony with the whole Italian Church committed, especially after the Verona Congress, to give witness of Christ Risen as hope of the world."
Arrive by helicopter
Benedict XVI is scheduled to arrive in Assisi by helicopter at 8:50 a.m. next June 17. He will be welcomed by Archbishop Sorrentino and other religious and civil authorities, according to the program published by the archdiocese.
The Pope will then go by car to the churches of San Damiano and of St. Clare, to spend a brief moment in private prayer.
He will celebrate Mass at 10:30 a.m. in the lower Basilica of St. Francis, deliver a homily and lead the Angelus.
At 1 p.m. he will lunch with the bishops of Umbria, the religious community, and his escorts. He will also greet the German Capuchin Poor Clare nuns.
In the afternoon, he will hold a meeting with the clergy and religious at the Cathedral of St. Rufino.
The day's program will end at St. Mary of the Angels with a private visit to the Portiuncula at 5:30 p.m. and a meeting with young people in the square of the basilica.
As soon as he learned of the papal visit, Father José Rodríguez Carballo, minister general of the Order of Friars Minor, addressed a letter of gratitude to the Pope.
The event is of interest "not only to our Fraternities which live and work in the diocese of Assisi, but also to our Universal Fraternity," Father Carballo told the Pontiff.
Because "Assisi is Francis' city … we were born in Assisi, and from Assisi the Seraphic Doctor sent us 'two by two' around the world to proclaim peace and penance," he said.
"Moreover, your 'pilgrimage' to Assisi is taking place while our order is approaching the eighth centenary of its foundation, and our itinerary had as its starting point Francis' dialogue with the Crucifix of San Damiano, a dialogue that Your Holiness proposed on several occasions as the key to understand the human and evangelical venture of the 'Poverello,'" continued his letter to the Pope.
"Allow me to express my own joy and gratitude and that of the whole Order of Friars Minor for this new gift, which is transformed into a place of reference for our vocation and mission in the Church and in today's world," the Franciscan added.
Just over a year ago, Benedict XVI introduced novelties in Assisi: a papal legate, as a sign of the Apostolic See's bond with Assisi, and the jurisdiction of the local bishop over the two major Franciscan churches: the basilicas of St. Francis and of St. Mary of the Angels.