Pope Benedict has established new juridical norms for the famous Basilica of St. Francis, as well as the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels, both located in Assisi, Italy and run respectively by the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor Conventual and Friars Minor.
The new "Motu proprio" entitled "De Basilicis Sancti Francisci et Sanctae Mariae Angelorum," establishes new norms concerning the Basilicas, which will now be assigned a Cardinal to oversee some necessary apostolic activities.
The Pope began his new document by recalling the universal fame of the Basilica of St. Francis "which holds the remains of the seraphic saint," and that of St. Mary of the Angels "which houses the diminutive but pre-eminent church of Porziuncola."
He also highlighted the fact that "the Roman Pontiffs, for their part, have always had special ties with, and particular solicitude for, these two major Franciscan churches, ... and have always kept them under their own direct jurisdiction."
"Over the centuries," Benedict wrote, "with their compassionate activities and their testimony, the Conventual Friars and the Friars Minor have kept the spirit and the charism of St. Francis alive, spreading his evangelical message of peace, brotherhood and goodness throughout the world."
He then affirmed that, in order in order to more effectively integrate the various activities carried out in the two basilicas with diocesan, regional and national pastoral care, "we feel it appropriate to modify the current juridical regulations, as established by my venerated predecessor Pope Paul VI, ... updating the norms to reflect current needs."
Consequently, the Pope decreed over the weekend that the two Basilicas, with their associated convents, would be assigned a cardinal as papal legate who "although without jurisdiction, will have the task of perpetuating with his moral authority the close ties of communion between those places sacred to the memory of St. Francis and this Apostolic See."
"He will be able to impart the papal blessing during the celebrations he presides on the occasion of the major liturgical Solemnities."
In the document, the Pope went on to decide that the bishop of the diocese Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino will, from this moment on, have jurisdiction "over the churches and the religious houses, regarding all pastoral activities carried out by the Conventual Fathers of the Basilica of St. Francis, and by the Friars Minor of St. Mary of the Angels."
"The Franciscan Fathers," he added, "both Conventual and Friars Minor, for all initiatives with pastoral implications, will thus have to ask for and obtain the consent of the bishop of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino."
That bishop, will then "seek the opinion of the president of the Episcopal Conference of Umbria" [the region of Italy, of which Assisi is part] or, for more wide-ranging initiatives, "of the president of the Italian Episcopal Conference."
"As for the celebration of the Sacraments in the aforesaid basilicas, the norms of the Code of Canon Law and those in force in the diocese are applicable."
The Motu proprio, dated November 9th--the anniversary of the dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran--concluded by exhorting "the Sons of St. Francis, to whom the two aforesaid basilicas are entrusted, to follow with generous willingness the norms laid down…in a spirit of sincere communion with the bishop of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino and, through him, with the regional and national episcopal conferences."