Vatican City, 5 October 2013 (VIS) – After lunch at the Caritas soup kitchen, the Pope visited the Hermitage of the Carceri (Prisons) at Mount Subasio, five kilometres from Assisi and at an altitude of eight hundred metres, surrounded by forests. There he visited the grotto where St. Francis had retreated in order to devote himself to contemplation, and the minute chapel dedicated to St. Mary where Francis and his peers gathered to pray together.
The visit lasted around half an hour; the Holy Father was welcomed by the religious community and prayed in St. Francis' grotto. From there, he transferred by car to the cathedral of St. Rufino to meet with the clergy, consecrated persons and members of the pastoral council of the diocese.
In this cathedral, there is the font where St. Francis and St. Clare were baptised, and the Pope mentioned this, emphasising the importance of the memory of baptism, “our birth as children of the Mother Church”. In his address, the pontiff spoke about the most important aspects in the life of the diocesan community and referred to the Synod that its members are about to commence.
The first issue he considered was the Word of God. “The Church is this”, said the Pope: “the community that listens, with faith and love, to the Lord who speaks. … It is the Word of God that engenders faith, that nourishes and regenerates it. The Word touches hearts, converts them to God and to His reasoning, which is so different from ours”. But “it is not enough to read the Sacred Scriptures, it is necessary to listen to Jesus Who speaks through them. We need to be antennae that receive, that tune in to the Word of God. It is the Spirit of God that brings the Scriptures alive, that allows them to be understood in depth, in their true and full sense”.
The second aspect is that of “walking. It is one of the words I like best when I think of the Christian and the Church. But for you it has a particular meaning – you are about to embark on a diocesan synod, and 'synod' means to walk together. I think this is truly our most beautiful experience: to be part of a community of people who walk together, throughout history, alongside the Lord, who walks among us. We are not isolated, we do not walk alone, but rather we are part of Christ's single flock, which walks united. And here, when I think of you priests – and allow me to include myself among you – I ask, what is more beautiful for us than being able to walk with our people? … united, without breaking away, without nostalgia for the past. And while we walk, we speak, we get to know each other, we grow together as a family”.
Finally, the third aspect is to go out into the peripheries and proclaim. “This is an element I experienced a lot when I was in Buenos Aires: the importance of reaching out towards others, in the peripheries”, in a geographical sense, and “above all, people in special life situations … marginalised and disregarded human lives. These are people who we perhaps find physically close to the 'centre' but spiritually distant”.
“Do not be afraid of going out towards these people, to these situations. Do not allow yourselves to be obstructed by prejudices, habits, mental or pastoral rigidity, the famous 'it's always been done this way'! But you can reach the peripheries only if you carry the Word of God in your heart and walk with the Church, like St. Francis. Otherwise we only take ourselves with us, not the Word of God, and this is not good, it is not useful to anyone. We do not save the world ourselves; it is the Lord Who does this”.