Pope Urges Franciscans to Proclaim Christ

Offers Francis' Faith in the Gospel as Guide

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ASSISI, Italy, JUNE 18, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI encouraged all Franciscans to walk in their founder's footsteps by responding to all of life's challenges with the Gospel.



The Pope delivered this message Sunday to the General Chapter of the Order of Friars Minor Conventuals in the Basilica of St. Francis. He underlined the modern-day relevance of the experiences of the great saint.

St. Francis "understood himself entirely in light of the Gospel" and from this "comes the perpetual authenticity of his example," the Holy Father said.

He continued: "His 'prophecy' teaches us to make the Gospel our criterion in facing the challenges of all ages, including our own, resisting the deceptive lure of passing fashions to root ourselves in God's plan and thus discern the true needs of mankind."

The Pope expressed his desire that "the friars be able to accept this 'program' with renewed drive and courage, trusting in the strength that comes from on high."

"Abandoning himself to the action of the Spirit, Francis converted to Christ even more, being transformed into a living image of him, through poverty, charity and mission," the Pontiff recalled, alluding to the occasion of his visit -- the 800th anniversary of the conversion of St. Francis.

The eyes of Christ

Benedict XVI, picking up on the General Chapter's theme of formation as a permanent journey, insisted this journey "be centered on the ability of letting oneself be formed by the Spirit, to be ready to go anywhere he calls. At its roots must be the act of listening to the Word in a climate of intense and continuous prayer.

"Only in this way will they be able to understand the true needs of the men and women of our time, offering them answers taken from God's wisdom and proclaiming that which they have truly experienced in their own lives."

The Pope also underlined the necessity of every friar, following the example to St. Francis, "to be a true contemplative, with their eyes fixes on the eyes of Christ," capable of "seeing the face of Christ in his suffering fellows and bringing the announcement of peace to everyone."

To do this every friar "must make his own the journey of conformity to the Lord Jesus that Francis lived," he added.

The Holy Father continued: "The Minor Conventuals are asked to be above all proclaimers of Christ: that they may draw near to all with humility and trust, in a way that favors dialogue, while always offering passionate witness of the one and only Savior. That they may be witnesses of the 'beauty' of God, that Francis sang of while contemplating the wonders of creation."

The Pontiff's final message to the Franciscans invited them to thank God for the development of the order, above all in mission countries, and to take advantage of this meeting to "ask themselves what the Spirit is asking of them to continue to proclaim with passion, in the footsteps of the seraphic father, the Kingdom of God at the beginning of the third Christian millennium."