The poor will be at the heart of Pope Francis’ fifth visit to Assisi

Pope Francis celebrates Mass at the tomb of St. Francis of Assisi on Oct. 3, 2020. Pope Francis celebrates Mass at the tomb of St. Francis of Assisi on Oct. 3, 2020. | Vatican Media.

Ahead of Pope Francis’ visit to Assisi on Friday, the local bishop has said that the pope’s trip serves as a reminder of the Church’s preferential option for the poor.

"With immense joy, we are preparing for the visit, albeit private, of Pope Francis, who for the fifth time comes to Assisi to shake us and remind us that the poor are part of our life and must be part of our heart,” Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino said in a statement sent to CNA on Nov. 10.

The pope will travel to the hometown of his namesake, St. Francis, on Nov. 12 for a visit devoted to spending time with a group of 500 poor people from across Europe.

Upon Pope Francis’ arrival in Assisi, a symbolic pilgrim’s cloak and staff will be given to the pope by the poor, according to the schedule released by the Vatican.

Pope Francis will begin the day at the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels at 9 a.m. local time, where he will hear the testimonies of six people living in poverty from France, Poland, Spain, and Italy.

The Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels, located in the valley below the medieval hill town of Assisi, is a large basilica encompassing a small chapel, the Portiuncula, where St. Francis lived when he began the Franciscan Order.

After hearing the testimonies, the pope will take a break to share a refreshment with the poor before returning to the basilica at 11 a.m. for a moment of prayer and to distribute gifts.

Pope Francis visits Assisi on Oct 3, 2020. Vatican Media.
Pope Francis visits Assisi on Oct 3, 2020. Vatican Media.

The pope will then return by helicopter to the Vatican, while the poor will be hosted by the bishop of Assisi for a lunch organized by the Catholic charity Caritas.

This will be Pope Francis’ fifth visit to the town of Assisi since becoming pope in 2013. His encounter with the poor will take place as part of the Catholic Church’s celebration of the fifth annual World Day of the Poor, which falls this year on Sunday, Nov. 14.

Pope Francis established the World Day of the Poor in 2016 at the end of the Church’s Jubilee Year of Mercy. The day is celebrated each year on the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, a week before the feast of Christ the King.

“At the conclusion of the Jubilee of Mercy, I wanted to offer the Church a World Day of the Poor, so that throughout the world Christian communities can become an ever greater sign of Christ’s charity for the least and those most in need,” the pope wrote in his first World Day of the Poor message in 2017.

The theme of this year’s World Day of the Poor is “The poor you will always have with you,” the words of Jesus recorded in Mark 14:7 after a woman anointed him with precious ointment.

In his message for this year’s celebration, Pope Francis described what he observed as an increasing tendency to dismiss the poor against the background of the coronavirus crisis.

“There seems to be a growing notion that the poor are not only responsible for their condition, but that they represent an intolerable burden for an economic system focused on the interests of a few privileged groups,” the pope said.

“We are now seeing the creation of new traps of poverty and exclusion, set by unscrupulous economic and financial actors lacking in a humanitarian sense and in social responsibility,” he said.

Sorrentino, the bishop of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino, said that his diocese has been recently carrying out initiatives and projects in collaboration with other dioceses in the Italian region of Umbria to place “the least ones at the center.”

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“We want above all to be the voice of a social change that cannot wait and that the pope has been urging us to do for a long time,” Sorrentino said.

“Assisi is once again the message city of this renewal.”

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