Assisi Awaits 1st Pope Named Francis

More Than 100,000 Pilgrims Expected for Papal Visit

Assisi, Italy, (Zenit.org) Rocio Lancho Garcia | 1081 hits

For the first time in history, a Pontiff bearing the name of the saint of Assisi will visit this city located in the Italian region of Umbria. Though the Holy Father will be the 19th pope to visit the birthplace of "the poor one," he is the first to be called Pope Francis.

A palpable air of welcoming, as well as finalizing preparations, has enveloped Assisi ahead of the Holy Father's arrival Friday morning. Multitudes of Vatican flags decorate the balconies lining the streets as well as the flag of the Pope's native Argentina. Everyone is waiting for the Latin American Pope. Buses lining the streets are dropping off pilgrims who will participate in the Mass on October 4, feast of St. Francis of Assisi.

Store display windows and restaurants have been decorated with photos and messages saying "Welcome Pope Francis" as well as "Welcome Back Francis", a way of giving a new welcome to the name of the Saint of Assisi. 

Fr. Mauro Gambetti, guardian of the Sacred Convent of Assisi, stated that he has lost count due to the more than 100,000 prayer intentions and comments on the official page of the Sacred Convent, www.sanfrancescopatronoditalia.it. 

"The wait is growing: it is an emotional waiting, that is felt in the calls that we receive, as well as the letters filled with emotion and hope in the people who have found in Pope Francis a close confidant. The Pope has impressed us many times, with his gestures of simplicity and affection. The various media present are anxiously waiting as well," Fr. Gambetti told ZENIT.

More than 100,000 people are expected to be present for the pastoral visit. The event will be covered by more than 1,000 journalists, a significant number, given that World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro this summer saw the presence of an estimated 5,500 accredited journalists. 

Two stages have been prepared in two different areas of the city: the first in the square in front of the Basilica of Saint Francis for the Mass that will be celebrated at 11:00 am, and another located in front of Saint Mary of the Angels, where the Pope will meet with an estimated 12,000 youth.

Assisi, a small city with a little over 28,000 inhabitants, will receive a great multitude of people. Many pilgrims are preparing to spend the night camped outside and guard their spots along the path where the Pope is expected to pass by. Those who cannot find space in the designated areas for pilgrims are planning to follow the papal motorcade via the nine large screens located in various parts of the city. 

Tomorrow will be an intense day for the Bishop of Rome, who in almost 12 hours, will have 11 meetings, among them a visit to the Seraphic Institute of Assisi, where he will visit sick and disabled children and the Caritas shelter where he will have lunch with the poor.