Speeches 2005-13 17067

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Thank you for your most beautiful singing! It is singing to accompany the expectation of the Lord's coming. But the Lord is always coming. Therefore, this is precisely a welcome song for the Lord. We ourselves are going to meet the Lord.

This encounter makes me think of similar encounters in past times, very beautiful encounters which are deeply engraved in my memory. To see again this life of love for the Lord, this life of Mary - totally absorbed in listening to the Lord and thus listening to the Word of God for humanity today - is always a great inspiration to me, a great encouragement.

We are celebrating 800 years since the conversion of St Francis. Conversion is not only a moment, an instant of life: it is a journey. And you are going ahead, you go before us on the path of conversion, on this journey which is sometimes very arduous but is always accompanied by the joys of the Lord.

And let us hope that today will be just such a day, lived in the joy of the Lord, a day when God's sun, so beautifully praised by St Francis, may also truly be our "centre" and brighten our hearts and our lives.

I am not prepared to say anything else now, but I thank you warmly for everything. For me Assisi is always an interior reference point, because I know that it has a great power of prayer, a power for the Pope in his mission to be helmsman of the Barque of Peter, of the Barque of Christ.

Therefore, let us move ahead with the Lord! I pray for you and please pray for me! Thus, despite the exterior distance we will remain profoundly united.

Thank you again!




MEETING WITH THE BAVARIAN, GERMAN CAPUCHIN POOR CLARES Chapter Hall of the Sacro Convento Sunday, 17 June 2007

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Dear Sisters,

When Archishop Sorrentino and I arranged this Visit, I immediately said: "I have to meet the Bavarian, the German, Capuchins". For me, they comprise a profound part of Assisi, and I cherish so many beautiful memories of the meetings I have had at their House - both before and after the earthquake - that for me a Visit to Assisi without a Meeting with the Capuchin nuns, the German ones, would be only half an Assisi experience.

So I rejoice: here we are together, almost as though we were at your Convent.

I am very grateful and glad that centuries ago Providence founded this convent, that it is still alive, and that young girls constantly come here from Germany and in particular from the Land of Bavaria to take the way of the Lord in communion with St Francis: the way of poverty, chastity, obedience and, above all, the way of love for Christ and for his Church.

I know that you say many prayers for me and for the whole Church. Knowing that I am backed by so many prayerful people, so many dear Sisters who pray and support my work from within, gives me constant strength. Hence, I also wish to say a word of thanks for this.

This year we are celebrating the conversion of St Francis. We know that we are always in need of conversion: we know that throughout life we find ourselves on the ascent, often arduous but also always beautiful, of successive conversions; we know that this is how, day after day, we come closer to the Lord.

And St Francis also shows us that in his life, beginning with his first deep encounter with the Crucified Christ of San Damiano, his communion with Christ developed increasingly until he became one with him in the event of the stigmata.

For this reason we seek him, for this we fight: to listen to his voice with ever greater attention so that it may penetrate our hearts ever more deeply and increasingly shape our lives, and so that from within we may be conformed to him and the Church may live within us.

Just as Mary was in herself a living Church, through your praying, your believing, your hoping and your loving, you become a living Church and thus one with the one Lord. Thank you for everything. I am truly grateful to the Lord that we have been able to see one another here.

We also have a small present. (Of course, I say thank you for the flowers!). We have brought you an image of Our Lady, which will remind you of this Visit during which we were able to meet.

I believe I can hear more singing... (at this point a song is sung).

Thank you! That was a hymn we often used to sing at the Seminary of Traunstein and it takes me back to my early youth, thus enabling me to perceive all the joy in the Lord and in the Mother of God, then as now, which we carry in our hearts. I can now impart to you my Blessing.




MEETING WITH CLERGY AND MEN AND WOMEN RELIGIOUS Cathedral of San Rufino Sunday, 17 June 2007

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Dear Priests and Deacons,
Dear Men and Women Religious,

I can sincerely say that I was looking forward to meeting you in this ancient Cathedral in which the diocesan Church usually gathers around the Bishop.

This morning, after being with the different members of the People of God during the Eucharistic Celebration outside the Basilica of St Francis, it seemed to me beautiful to arrange a special Meeting with you, also because of the presence of so many consecrated people in this Diocese.

I thank Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino, Pastor of this Church, for expressing your sentiments of communion and affection. And I have indeed sensed your affection right from the start. I offer you heartfelt thanks.

I also warmly greet the Bishop emeritus, Bishop Sergio Goretti, who for years, as we heard, 25 years, guided this Church, renowned for her long and holy history. I remember so many wonderful meetings that we had here in Assisi. Thank you, Your Excellency!

As you know, as Archbishop Sorrentino has recalled, the occasion which brings me to Assisi today is the commemoration of the Eighth Centenary of the Conversion of Francis. I too have become a pilgrim.

Already as a student and when I was preparing for a professorship, I studied St Bonaventure and consequently, St Francis, too. I was making a spiritual pilgrimage to Assisi well before coming here in person. Thus, in this long pilgrimage of my life, I am glad to be with you today in the Cathedral, with you priests and men and women religious.

Having trodden in the footsteps of the "Poverello", I shall be inspired mainly by him in what I say. However, in the context of this Cathedral, I cannot fail to mention the other Saints who have made this Church famous, starting with the Patron, St Rufinus, joined by St Rinaldo and Blessed Angelo.

It goes without saying that, beside Francis, there is Clare, whose house was in the neighbourhood of this Cathedral. I have just been able to see the baptistery where tradition claims that both St Francis and St Clare were baptised and later, St Gabriel of Our Lady of the Sorrowful Virgin.

This detail gives me a starting point for a first reflection. If we are speaking today of Francis' conversion, thinking of the radical life choice he made as a young man, we cannot forget that his first "conversion" took place in the gift of Baptism. The full response which he was to give as an adult would merely be the ripening of the seed of holiness that he received then.

It is important that we have a deeper awareness of the baptismal dimension of holiness in our life and in our pastoral approach. It is a gift and a duty for all the baptized.

My venerable and beloved Predecessor was referring to this dimension when he wrote in his Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte: "To ask catechumens: "Do you wish to receive Baptism?' means at the same time to ask them: "Do you wish to become holy?'" (n. 31).

The millions of pilgrims attracted by Francis' charism who walk along these streets must be helped to grasp the essential core of Christian life and to aspire to the "high standard", which is precisely, holiness. It is not enough for them to admire Francis: through him they must be able to encounter Christ, to profess him and love him with "true faith; certain hope; perfect love" (Prayer Before the Crucifix, 1).

Christians of our time are more and more confronted by the trend to accept a diminished Christ, whose extraordinary humanity is admired but whose divinity in its profound mystery is rejected. Francis himself suffers a sort of mutilation when he is cast as a witness of albeit important values appreciated by contemporary culture, which overlooks the fact that his profound decision, we might say the heart of his life, was his choice for Christ.

In Assisi, a high-profile pastoral approach is more necessary than ever. To this end, you, priests and deacons, and you, persons of consecrated life, must have a strong sense of the privilege and responsibility of living in this territory of grace. It is true that all who visit this City receive a beneficial message, even from its "stones" and history. The stones speak clearly but this does not prescind from making a vigorous spiritual proposal, which can help when confronting the many seductions of relativism that are a feature of today's culture.

Assisi has the gift of appealing to people of many cultures and religions, in the name of a dialogue that constitutes an indispensable value. John Paul II linked his name with this icon of Assisi as the City of dialogue and peace. I appreciated, in this regard, that you also wished to honour the memory of his special relationship with this City by dedicating to him a hall with paintings portraying him right beside this Cathedral.

It was clear to John Paul II that Assisi's vocation to dialogue is bound to Francis' message and must continue to be hinged on the structural pillars of his spirituality.

In Francis everything started from God and returned to God. His Praises of God Most High reveal his constantly enraptured heart in conversation with the Trinity. His relationship with Christ found its most meaningful place in the Eucharist. Even his love for neighbour developed from his experience of God's love.

When he mentioned in his Testament his meeting with lepers as the event that began his conversion, he emphasized that it was God himself who led him to that merciful embrace (cf. Testament 2).

The various biographical testimonies agree in describing his conversion as a gradual opening to the Word which comes from on high. The same logic emerged in his begging for alms and his almsgiving, motivated by the love of God (cf. 2 Cel 47, 77).

His gazing at nature was actually contemplation of the Creator in the beauty of his creatures. His actual hope of peace is thus modulated as a prayer, since the way in which he was to express it was revealed to him: "May the Lord give you peace" (2 Test. 23).

Francis was a man for others because he was a man of God through and through. To seek to separate the "horizontal" dimension of his message from the "vertical" would make Francis unrecognizable.

It is up to you, ministers of the Gospel and of the altar, to you, men and women religious, to develop a proclamation of the Christian faith that is equal to today's challenges. You have a great history and I desire to express my appreciation for all that you already do.

If today I am returning to Assisi as Pope, you know, however, that it is not my first Visit to this City and that it has always made a most beautiful impression on me. Your spiritual and pastoral traditions must retain their perennial values, yet at the same time they must be renewed in order to give an authentic answer to new questions.

I would therefore like to encourage you to adhere confidently to the pastoral programme that your Bishop has presented to you. In it are pointed out the great and demanding perspectives of communion, charity and mission, and it emphasizes the fact that they are rooted in an authentic conversion to Christ.

Lectio divina, the centrality of the Eucharist, the Liturgy of the Hours and Eucharistic Adoration and contemplation of the mysteries of Christ in the Marian perspective of the Rosary ensure that atmosphere and spiritual tension without which all pastoral commitments, fraternal life, even the commitment to the poor, would risk being shipwrecked because of our frailty and weariness.

Have courage, dear friends! The Church of all regions of the world looks with special sympathy to this City, to this Ecclesial Community. Francis' name, accompanied by Clare's, asks that this City be distinguished by a special missionary enthusiasm; but for this very reason it also requires that this Church live an intense experience of communion.

The "Motu Proprio" Totius Orbis fits into this perspective. With it, as your Bishop mentioned, I established that the two important Papal Basilicas of St Francis and St Mary of the Angels, although continuing to enjoy the Holy See's special attention through the Papal Legate, for pastoral concerns would come under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of this Church.

I am truly delighted to know that the new journey has begun under the banner of great willingness and collaboration, and I am certain that it will bear rich fruit.

Indeed, the time was right to take this step for various reasons. It was suggested by the new breath that the Second Vatican Council brought to the theology of the particular Church, showing how the mystery of the universal Church is expressed in her. The particular Churches, in fact, "are constituted after the model of the universal Church; it is in these and formed out of them (in quibus et ex quibus) that the one and unique Catholic Church exists" (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium
LG 23).

There is a mutual inner appeal between the universal and the particular Churches. Precisely while they live their identity as "portions" of the People of God, the individual Churches also express communion and "diakonia" in relation to the universal Church, scattered across the world and enlivened by the Spirit and served by the ministry of unity of the Successor of Peter.

Such "catholic" openness belongs to each Diocese and in a certain way marks all the dimensions of her life. However, it is accentuated when a Church possesses a charism which attracts people and is active beyond her own boundaries.

And how can we deny that this is the charism of Francis and of his message? The many pilgrims who come to Assisi spur this Church on to surpass herself. Moreover, it is undeniable that Francis would have had a special relationship with his hometown. Assisi, in a certain way, is identified with the journey of holiness of its great son. This is demonstrated by my own Pilgrimage today, which sees me stopping at so many places, of course not all, that were part of Francis' life in this City.

I am then also pleased to emphasize that the spirituality of Francis of Assisi helps both in understanding the universality of the Church, which he expressed in his special devotion to the Vicar of Christ, and in understanding the value of the particular Church, given that his relationship with the Bishop of Assisi was strong and filial.

It is necessary to rediscover not only the biographical but also the "ecclesiological" value of that encounter of the young Francis with Bishop Guido, to whose discernment and in whose hands, stripping himself of everything, he made his choice of life for Christ (cf. 1 Cel I, 6, 14-15).

The timeliness of a unifying arrangement, as was assured by the "Motu Proprio", became advisable also because of the need for better coordinated and more effective pastoral action.

Since the Second Vatican Council and the subsequent Magisterium, it has been necessary for consecrated people and communities of consecrated life, also those of pontifical right, to fit organically into the life of the particular Church, in conformity with their Constitutions and the laws of the Church (cf. Christus Dominus CD 33-35 CIC 678-680).

If these communities are entitled to expect acceptance and respect for their own charism, they must nevertheless avoid living as "islands" and must integrate themselves with conviction and generosity into the service and pastoral programme adopted by the Bishop for the entire diocesan community.

I address a special thought to you, dear priests, who work every day together with the deacons at the service of the People of God. Your enthusiasm, your communion and your life of prayer and generous ministry are indispensable. It can happen that you feel weariness or fear as you face the new demands and problems, but we must trust that the Lord will give us the necessary strength to do what he asks of us.

He - let us pray and we are sure - will never let vocations be lacking if we implore him with prayer and at the same time are concerned to seek and foster them with a fervent and imaginative youth and vocations ministry, which can reveal the beauty of the priestly ministry. In this context, I also gladly greet the superiors and students of the Pontifical Seminary of the Umbrian Region.

You, consecrated persons, give account with your lives of the hope you have placed in Christ. You are a great treasure for this Church, both in the context of parish pastoral work and for the benefit of the very many pilgrims who often come and ask you for hospitality and also expect a spiritual witness of you.

May you in particular, cloistered Religious, be able to hold high the torch of contemplation. I would like to repeat to each one of you the words which St Clare wrote in a letter to Agnes of Bohemia, asking her to make Christ her "mirror": "Look into this mirror every day, O Queen, spouse of Jesus Christ, and continually examine your face in it..." (Fourth Letter to Agnes, 15).

May your hidden life of prayer never leave you out of the Church's missionary dynamism; on the contrary, may it place you at its heart. The loftier the apostolic challenges are, the greater is the need for your charism. Be signs of the love of Christ, to whom all the other brothers and sisters exposed to the toil of apostolic life and secular commitment in the world may look.

As I renew the expression of my affection to you, full of trust, and entrust you to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of your Saints, starting with Francis and Clare, I impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you all.




MEETING WITH YOUTH Square in front of the Basilica of St Mary of the Angels Sunday, 17 June 2007

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Dearest Young People,

Thank you for your very warm welcome; I feel in you the faith, I feel the joy of being Catholic Christians. Thank you for the affectionate words and for the important questions that your two representatives addressed to me. I hope to say something in the course of this meeting on these questions which are questions about life; therefore, I cannot give an exhaustive answer now, but I will try to say something.

But above all I greet you all, young people of this Diocese of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino, with your Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino. I greet you, youth of the whole Diocese of Umbria, gathered here with your Pastors. Of course, I also greet you, young people from other regions of Italy accompanied by your Franciscan leaders. I address a cordial greeting to Cardinal Attilio Nicora, my Legate for the Papal Basilicas of Assisi, and to the Ministers General of the various Franciscan Orders.

Here, with Francis, the heart of a Mother, the "Virgin made Church", as he liked to invoke her, welcomes us (cf. Salut BVM, 1). Francis had a special affection for the little Church of the Portiuncula, kept in this Basilica of St Mary of the Angels. It was among the churches that gave him shelter in the first years of his conversion and where he listened to and meditated on the Gospel of the mission (cf. 1 Cel I, 9, 22).

After the first steps at Rivotorto, it was here that he placed the "headquarters" of the Order, where the friars could gather almost as if in a maternal womb to restore themselves and to set out again, full of apostolic zeal.

Here all had access to a font of mercy in the experience of the "great pardon" which all of us always need. Lastly, here he lived his meeting with "sister death".

Dear young people, you know that what brought me to Assisi was the desire to relive the interior journey of Francis on the occasion of the eighth centenary of his conversion.

This moment of my Pilgrimage has a particular significance. I think of this moment as the climax of my day.

St Francis speaks to all, but I know that for you young people he has a special attraction. Your numerous presence here confirms it for me, as do the questions that you have asked me. His conversion came about when he was in the prime of life, of his experience, of his dreams. He had spent 25 years without coming to terms with the meaning of life. A few months before he died, he would recall that period as the time when he "was in sin" (cf. 2 Testament 1).

What was Francis' thought concerning sin? According to biographies, each one according to its own view, it is not easy to determine. A meaningful portrait of his way of living is found in the Legend of the Three Companions (LTC), where one reads: "Francis was always happy and generous, dedicated to play and song, roaming through the town of Assisi day and night with friends like him, spend-thrifts, dissipating all that they could have or earn on lunches and other things" (3 LTC 1, 2).

Of how many of today's youth could something similar be said? Then today, there is also the possibility of going far from one's city to have fun. The initiatives for relaxation during the weekend attract many young people. One can even "surf" virtually, "navigating" on the internet and seeking every type of information or contact.

Unfortunately, there is no lack of - and rather, there are many, too many! - young people who seek mental scenes as fatuous as they are destructive in the artificial paradise of drugs. How can it be denied that there are many young people, and not so young people, who are tempted to emulate the life of Francis before his conversion?

In that way of living there was the desire for happiness that dwells in every human heart. But could that life bring true joy? Francis certainly did not find it.

You yourselves, dear young people, can verify this beginning with your experience. The truth is that finite things can give only a faint idea of joy, but only the Infinite can fill the heart. Another great convert said so, St Augustine: "You made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you" (Confessions 1, 1).

Again the same biographical text tells us that Francis was rather vane. He liked to have sumptuous clothing made for him and sought originality (cf. 3 LTS 1, 2).

In vanity, in the quest for originality, there is something that in some way touches all of us. Today, "taking care of one's image" or of "seeking an image" is often spoken of. To be able to have a minimum of success, we need to win approval in the eyes of others with something unheard of, original.

To a certain extent this can express an innocent desire to be accepted. But often pride, excessive self-seeking, egoism and the desire to dominate creep in.

In reality, centering life upon oneself is a mortal trap: we can be ourselves only if we open ourselves in love, loving God and our brothers and sisters.

An aspect that impressed the contemporaries of Francis was also his ambition, his thirst for glory and adventure. It was this that led him to the battlefield, where he ended as a prisoner for a year in Perugia. The same thirst for glory, when freed, would take him to Apulia, on a new military expedition, but precisely in this circumstance, at Spoleto, the Lord made himself present in his heart and inspired him to retrace his steps and listen seriously to his Word.

It is interesting to notice how the Lord took Francis in his stride, that of wanting to affirm himself, in order to indicate to him the path of a holy ambition focused on the Infinite: "Who can be more useful to you, the master or the servant?" (LTC 2, 6), was the question that he heard resound in his heart. It was as if to say: why be content to be dependent on men when there is a God ready to welcome you into his house, into his royal service?

Dear young people, you reminded me about some problems concerning youth, of your difficulty to build a future, and above all how to discern the truth.

In Christ's passion narrative we find Pilate's question: "What is truth?" (
Jn 18,38). It is the question of a sceptic who asks: "But, you say you are the truth, but what is the truth?". And thus, with truth being unrecognizable, Pilate lets it be understood: we act according to what is most practical, what is most successful and not seeking the truth. He then condemns Jesus to death because he follows pragmatism, success, his own fortune.

Many today also say: "But what is the truth? We can find fragments, but how can we find the truth?". It is really hard to believe that this is the truth: Jesus Christ, the true Life, the compass of our life. And yet, if we begin, as it is very tempting to do, to live for the moment without truth, we really lose the criteria and we also lose the foundation of common peace which alone can be the truth.

And this truth is Christ. The truth of Christ has been proven in the lives of the saints in all ages. The saints are the great trails of light in history that attest: this is the life, this is the way, this is the truth.
Therefore, we have the courage to say "yes" to Jesus Christ: "Your truth is proven in the lives of many saints. We will follow you!".

Dear young people, coming here from the Basilica of the Sacro Convento, I thought that perhaps it would not be good to speak continuously for almost an hour. Therefore, I think now would be the moment for a pause, for a song. I know that you have many songs, perhaps I can hear one of your songs now.

Now then, we have heard repeated in the song that St Francis heard the voice. He heard in his heart the voice of Christ, and what happened? He came to understand that he had to place himself at the service of his brethren, above all those suffering most. This is the consequence of that first encounter with the voice of Christ.

This morning, passing by Rivotorto, I glanced at the place where, according to tradition, the lepers were gathered: the least, the marginalized, for whom Francis felt an irrepressible sense of disgust.

Touched by grace he opened his heart to them. And he did it not only from a pious gesture of charity, which would be too little, but by kissing them and serving them. He himself confesses that what at first had been bitter, became for him "sweetness of soul and body" (cf. 2 Test. 3).

Grace, therefore, began to form Francis. He became ever more able to fix his gaze on the Face of Christ and to listen to his voice. It was at that point that the Crucifix of San Damiano spoke to him, calling him to a difficult mission: "Go, Francis, and repair my house which, as you can see, is all in ruins" (cf. 2 Cel I, 6, 10).

This morning, being at San Damiano, and then at the Basilica of St Clare where the original Crucifix that spoke to Francis is kept, I too fixed my eyes on those eyes of Christ. It is the image of the Crucified and Risen Christ, life of the Church, that speaks also in us if we are attentive, as 2,000 years ago he spoke to his Apostles and 800 years ago he spoke to Francis. The Church continually lives by this encounter.

Yes, dear young people: may we let ourselves encounter Christ! We entrust ourselves to his Word. In him there is not only a fascinating human being.

Certainly, he is fully human and similar to us in everything except sin (cf. He 4,15). But he is also much more: God is made man in him and therefore he is the only Saviour, as his very Name says: Jesus, or rather, "God saves".

One comes to Assisi to learn from St Francis the secret of recognizing Jesus Christ and experiencing him. This is what Francis felt about Jesus, according to what his first biographer narrates: "He always carried Jesus in his heart. Jesus on his lips, Jesus in his ears, Jesus in his eyes, Jesus in his hands, Jesus in all his other members.... Rather, finding himself travelling often and meditating on and singing of Jesus, he would forget that he was travelling and would invite all creatures to praise Jesus" (cf. 1 Cel II, 9, 115). Thus, we see that communion with Jesus also opens the heart and eyes to creation.

In a word, Francis was truly in love with Jesus. He met him in the Word of God, in the brethren, in nature, but above all in the Eucharistic Presence. Concerning this he wrote in his Testament: "In this world, I see nothing corporally of the same Most High Son of God except in his Most Holy Body and Most Holy Blood" (cf. 2 Test. 10).

Christmas at Greccio expresses the need to contemplate him in his tender humanity as a baby (cf. 1 Cel I, 30, 85-86).

The experience of La Verna, where he received the stigmata, shows the degree of intimacy he had reached in his relationship with the Crucified Christ. He could truly say with Paul: "For me to live is Christ" (Ph 1,21).

If he rids himself of everything and chooses poverty, the reason for all of this is Christ, and only Christ. Jesus is his all: he is enough!

Exactly because he is of Christ, Francis is also a man of the Church. From the Crucifix of San Damiano he heard the direction to repair the house of Christ, which is precisely the Church.

There is an intimate and indissoluble relationship between Christ and the Church. To be called to repair it certainly implies, in the mission of Francis, something that is his own and original. At the same time, this duty, after all, was none other than the responsibility that Christ attributes to every baptized person. To every one of us he also says: "Go and repair my house".

We are all called to repair in every generation the house of Christ, the Church, anew. And only by doing this does the Church live and become beautiful. And as we know, there are many ways to repair, to edify, to build the house of God, the Church. One also edifies through the different vocations, from the lay and family vocation, to the life of special consecration, to the priestly vocation.

At this point I wish to dwell in particular on this vocation. Francis, who was a deacon, not a priest (cf. 1 Cel I, 30, 86), nourished a great veneration for priests. Although knowing that there is also much poverty and fragility in God's ministers, he saw them as ministers of the Body of Christ, and that was enough to make a sense of love, reverence and obedience well up within him (cf. 2 Test. 6-10).

His love for priests is an invitation to rediscover the beauty of this vocation. It is vital for the People of God.

Dear young people, surround your priests with love and gratitude. If the Lord should call some of you to this great ministry, or even to some form of consecrated life, do not hesitate to say your "yes". Yes is not easy, but it is beautiful to be ministers of the Lord, it is beautiful to spend your life for him!

The young Francis felt a truly filial affection for his Bishop, and it was in his hands that, stripping himself of everything, he made his profession of a life already totally consecrated to the Lord (cf. 1 Cel I, 6, 15). He felt in a special way the mission of the Vicar of Christ, to whom he submitted his Rule and entrusted his Order.

If the Popes have shown throughout history such affection for Assisi, this in a certain sense is in exchange for the affection that Francis had for the Pope. I am pleased, dear young people, to be here, in the wake of my Predecessors and in particular of my friend, the beloved Pope John Paul II.

As with concentric circles, the love of Francis for Jesus extends not only to the Church but to all things seen in Christ and for Christ. Here the Canticle of the Creatures is born in which the eye rests on the splendour of creation: from brother sun to sister moon, from sister water to brother fire.

His interior gaze became so pure and penetrating as to perceive the beauty of creation in the beauty of creatures. The Canticle of Brother Sun, before being a great work of poetry and an implicit invitation to respect creation, is a prayer, praise addressed to the Lord, Creator of all.

Under the banner of prayer one can see Francis' commitment to peace. This aspect of his life is highly contemporary in a world that greatly needs peace and is not able to find the way to it. Francis is a man of peace and a peacemaker. He witnessed it in his meekness, yet without ever remaining silent about his faith, as his meeting with the Sultan demonstrates (cf. 1 Cel I, 20, 57).

Since interreligious dialogue, especially after the Second Vatican Council, has today become the common and irrenounceable heritage of Christian sensitivity, Francis can help us to dialogue authentically without falling into an attitude of indifference in regard to the truth or in the attenuation of our Christian proclamation.

His being a man of peace, tolerance and dialogue, is ever born from his experience of God-Love. His greeting of peace, is, not by chance, a prayer: "May the Lord give you peace" (2 Test. 23).

Dear young people, your vast presence here says how the figure of Francis speaks to your heart. I willingly consign his message to you, but above all, his life and his witness. It is time that you, young people, like Francis, take seriously and know how to enter into a personal relationship with Jesus. It is time to look at the history of this third millennium just begun as a history that needs the Gospel leaven ever more.

Once again, I make my own the invitation that my beloved Predecessor, John Paul II, always liked to address especially to youth: "Open the doors to Christ". Open them like Francis did, without fear, without calculation, without measure. Be, dear young people, my joy, as you were for John Paul II.

From this Basilica dedicated to St Mary of the Angels, I invite you to come to the House of Loreto at the beginning of September for the AgorÓ of Italian youth.

My Blessing to all of you. Thank you for everything, for coming, for your prayers.



Speeches 2005-13 17067