.- Officials at the shrine of St. Francis of Assisi have installed two video cameras in the crypt of the basilica so Catholics worldwide can make a “virtual pilgrimage” to the saint's tomb.
The installation of the cameras, which can be accessed at www.sanfrancesco.org, coincides with the re-opening of the crypt of St. Francis, which closed on Feb. 25 for renovation and maintenance.
The crypt has been the resting place of the saint’s remains since 1230.
Devotees of St. Francis, the founder of the Franciscans, can also send their prayer requests to [email protected].
The president of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, presided at the re-opening of the crypt on April 9.
The general custodian of the Convent of Assisi, Fr. Guiseppe Piemontese, told L’Osservatore Romano, “The preparation and expectations for Pope Benedict XVI’s visit next Oct. 27” were motivators for restoring “the original splendor of this place, which is the center and heart of Assisi and of Franciscans all over the world.”
Thanks to the work of Sergio Fusetti, the walls of the crypt – which were blackened from candle smoke – were restored to their original red color. A new lighting system was also installed.
The last restoration of the crypt took place in 1818 at the quest of Pope Pius VII. Workers carefully excavated the area around the tomb so that it could be visible to pilgrims for the first time in centuries.