On Monday afternoon, 4 January, Pope Francis was driven to the birthplace of the nativity scene. There in the Shrine of Greccio, he gathered himself in prayer in front of the mediaeval fresco which depicts the first representation of the Nativity, created by St Francis of Assisi in 1223. The impromptu visit was unexpected by the friars who, shortly before 3:00 pm, saw the Pontiff arrive, accompanied by Bishop Domenico Pompili of Rieti, to whom the Pope had paid a courtesy visit. Before arriving at the shrine, Francis also had a brief informal meeting with a group of young people participating in a meeting of the diocese on the encyclical Laudato Si’. I hope that you follow the star, the Pope told them, and that, like the magi, you have “the humility to discover Jesus in the little ones, in the humble, in the poor, in those who are discarded by society”. After pausing in prayer, the Pontiff signed the visitors’ register: “I thank the Lord for this grace and I ask him to bless the Church, the Bishop of Rieti, the Friars, the faithful... and to help all of us discover the star and seek the Child”. He then had a brief exchange with the shrine’s Franciscan community before departing at 3:30 to return to Rome.
St. Peter’s Square
April 22, 2019
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