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19 November 2021

Thirteen months after signing his Encyclical Fratelli Tutti in Assisi, Pope Francis returned to the Umbrian town on Friday, 12 November. He was accompanied by Msgr Leonardo Sapienza, Regent of the Prefecture of the Pontifical House and Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization. Before meeting with the poor people in the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels (Santa Maria degli Angeli), he paid an unexpected visit to the Monastery of Saint Clare for a brief encounter with the cloistered nuns serving the Church in prayer. Following words of greetings, the Poor Clares gave the Holy Father 500 rosaries to be distributed to the poor.

At 9:30 Pope Francis arrived at the large square in front of Saint Mary of the Angels and greeted school children, various Franciscan groups and communities of poor people, taking the time to offer words of encouragement to disabled people.

He was welcomed by Msgr Domenico Sorrentino, Archbishop-Bishop of Assisi-Gualdo Tadino-Nocera Umbra, Archbishop Renato Boccardo of Spoleto-Norcia, Fr Massimo Fusarelli, Minister General of the Orders of Friars Minor, Fr Massimo Travascio, Custodian of the Portiuncula and Cardinal Philippe Barbarin.

Also there to welcome him were three representatives of the group of poor people who gave him the pilgrim cloak and staff, symbols of the Franciscan pilgrim: Jennifer who was welcomed by the Magdalena Association, Abrhaley, born in Eritrea who became blind when a mine exploded in his face at the age of 5 and who is a guest of Caritas in Bastia Umbra and Luciano who is originally from Romania. Literally embraced by the poor, Pope Francis walked with them from the parvis to inside the Basilica.

After collecting himself in prayer inside the Portiuncula, the small chapel which once stood in the midst of the valley below Mount Subasio and where St. Francis lived when he began the Franciscan Order, the Holy Father began his encounter, starting first by listening to testimonies from people living in poverty. This was followed by a moment of prayer, which included hymns sung in French, Spanish, Italian and Polish and prayers of Mother Teresa and Saint Francis.

Lastly, as a final gesture of fraternity, Francis offered a personal gift to those present: a backpack filled with winter apparel and face masks. Before leaving Saint Mary of the Angels, he blessed a stone from the Portiuncula which was given to the homeless shelter, “Roses of Saint Francis”, in Trsat, Croatia, founded by a lay secular Franciscan Order. At the end of the event, Archbishop Sorrentino shared lunch with the poor while the Holy Father, on his return to the Vatican, stopped to share lunch with another group of Poor Clares in the town of Spello, 12 km from Assisi.