Celebration at St. Francis of Assisi Cathedral to bring Pope Francis

assisiThe feast of St Francis of Assisi is the most important festival of the Franciscan calendar in Assisi, Italy. It commemorates the saint’s transition from this life to the afterlife, according to the Catholic Church. For two days, starting on October 3, the town of Assisi is illuminated by oil lamps burning consecrated oil brought from a different Italian town each year. Solemn religious services are held in the Basilica of St Francis and in the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli. For many educators, caregivers and animal rights organizations, this day is an opportunity to teach children about endangered or abused animals and what can be done to help save these animals. This feast coincides with World Animal Day.

The election in March of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church made history several times over. His nomination also broke with the 2,000 year history of the church as the first Jesuit and the first Argentinian (though he’s the son of Italian immigrants) to be chosen by his fellow cardinals. Bergoglio is also the first non-European Pope in over a millennium. Perhaps the most telling among the firsts surrounding this popular and modest new Pope, however, is the name he has chosen for himself: Francis or Francesco in homage to Saint Francis of Assisi.

Who was the man who has so inspired the new Pope? Born Francesco Bernardone in 1182 to a wealthy textile merchant in Assisi, Francis abandoned his life of luxury and war-mongering as a young man and dedicated himself to spiritual pursuits until his death in 1226.

Though many travellers to Assisi limit their visit to a quick stop at the town’s imposing Basilica of Saint Francis, there is much more to this historic town than its most recognizeable monument. Be sure to find the quiet, flower-filled back alleys, hidden trattorias and secret spots scattered thoughout this beautiful hilltown. Maybe you would like to join Pope Francis in Assisi on October 4th this year!

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