Pope Francis says Saint " Francis lived the imitation of the poor Christ and love for the poor in an inseparable way, like the two sides of the same coin." FULL TEXT for Franciscan Centenary

Clementina room
Monday, October 31, 2022

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning and welcome!
I am happy to meet you, now nearing the eighth Franciscan Centenary (2023-2026), which promises to be a pilgrimage that from the Rieti Holy Valley, passing through La Verna, will reach Assisi, where it all began. I am grateful for the words addressed by Father General of the Friars Minor.
When I chose to call myself Francis, I knew I was referring to a saint so popular, but also so misunderstood. In fact, Francis is the man of peace, the man of poverty, the man who loves and celebrates creation; but what is the root of all this, what is the source? Jesus Christ. He is in love with Jesus Christ, who in order to follow him is not afraid to make a fool of himself but he goes on. The source of all his experience is faith. Francis receives it as a gift before the Crucifix, and the Crucified and Risen Lord reveals to him the meaning of life and human suffering. And when Jesus speaks to him in the person of the leper, he experiences the greatness of God's mercy and his own condition of humility. For this, full of gratitude and amazement, the Poverello spent hours with his Lord and said: “Who are you? Who am I?". From this source he receives the Holy Spirit in abundance, which urges him to imitate Jesus and follow the Gospel to the letter. Francis lived the imitation of the poor Christ and love for the poor in an inseparable way, like the two sides of the same coin. [1]
The next Franciscan Centenary will be a non-ritual celebration, if it is able to decline both the imitation of Christ and love for the poor. And this will also be possible thanks to the atmosphere that emanates from the various Franciscan "places", each of which has a particular character, a fruitful gift that contributes to renewing the face of the Church.
The first stage of this Franciscan itinerary, in chronological order (1223), is Fontecolombo, near Rieti. First stop because of the Rule and together with Greccio, place of the Nativity. It is a powerful invitation to rediscover the "way" of God in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. This fundamental choice says that man is the "way" of God and, consequently, the only "way" of the Church. Gaudium et spes expresses it with memorable words, where we read: "In reality, only in the mystery of the Incarnate Word does the mystery of man find true light. [...] Precisely by revealing the mystery of the Father and of his love for him, he also fully reveals man to man and makes known his lofty vocation "(n. 22).
La Verna with the stigmata (1224) represents "the last seal" - as Dante says (Paradiso, XI, 107) - which makes the Saint assimilated to the crucified Christ and capable of penetrating into human life, radically marked by pain and by suffering. St. Bonaventure wrote that "the most holy flesh" of Francis, "crucified together with its vices", transformed "into a new creature, showed in the eyes of all, for a singular privilege, the effigy of the Passion of Christ and, through a miracle never seen, it anticipated the image of the resurrection "(LegM XV, 1: FF 1246).
Finally, Assisi (1226), with Francis' Transit to the Porziuncola, reveals the essential of Christianity: the hope of eternal life. It is no coincidence that the tomb of the Saint, located in the Lower Basilica, has become over time the magnet, the beating heart of Assisi: an unequivocal sign of the presence of the one whose "wonderful life / better in the glory of heaven would be sung" (Paradiso , XI, 95-96).
After eight centuries, Saint Francis still remains a mystery. Just as Brother 'Masseo's question remains intact: "Why does the whole world follow you, and every person seems to want to see you and hear you and obey you?" (Fioretti, X: FF 1838). To find an answer it is necessary to go to the school of the Poverello, finding in his evangelical life the way to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. In concrete terms, this means listening, walking and announcing to the peripheries.
Listen, first. Francis, in front of the Crucifix, hears the voice of Jesus telling him: "Francis, go and repair my house". And the young Francis responds with promptness and generosity to this call of the Lord: to repair his house. But which house? Slowly, he realizes that it was not a question of being a bricklayer and repairing a building made of stones, but of making his contribution to the life of the Church; it was a question of placing oneself at the service of the Church, loving it and working so that the Face of Christ would be increasingly reflected in it.
Secondly, walk. Francis was a never stopped traveler, who crossed countless villages and villages in Italy on foot, making sure he was close to the people and eliminating the distance between the Church and the people. This same ability to "go out to meet", rather than "wait for the gate", is the style of a Christian community that feels the urge to come close rather than turn in on itself. This teaches us that those who follow St. Francis must learn to be firm and walking: firm in contemplation, in prayer, and then go forward, walking in witness, the testimony of Christ. Finally, announce to the suburbs. What everyone needs is justice, but also trust. Only faith restores the breath of the Spirit to a closed and individualistic world. With this supplement of breath, the great challenges present, such as peace, care for the common home and a new model of development can be faced, without surrendering to the facts that seem insurmountable.
 Dear brothers and sisters, I encourage you to live the long-awaited Franciscan Centenary to the full. I sincerely hope that this spiritual and cultural journey can be combined with the Jubilee of 2025, in the conviction that St. Francis of Assisi still pushes the Church today to live her fidelity to Christ and her mission in our time. I bless you all from my heart, and I ask you to please pray for me. Thank you! 
[1] Cf. Message for the XXIX World Youth Day (21 January 2014).

Source: Vatican.va