Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
February 8, 2010
St. Francis models respect for creation, pope says
Pope says 13th century saint offers the wisdom needed today
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE
VATICAN CITY - Calling St. Francis of Assisi "an authentic giant of holiness," Pope Benedict said the 13th-century saint continues to be a model for living simply, respecting God's creation and entering into dialogue with people of other religions.
St. Francis offers a clear demonstration that "the saints are the best interpreters of the Gospel" for people of every age, the pope said during his Jan. 27 weekly general audience.
Early in his process of conversion, the pope said, Francis was praying in the crumbling church of St. Damian in Assisi and heard Jesus speaking from the cross, telling him to repair the church. He carried out the work with his own hands.
"But the ruinous state of that church was a symbol of the dramatic, disturbing situation of the entire Church of that age with its superficial faith that did not form and transform people's lives and with a clergy that was not zealous," the pope said.
The Church "was decomposing from within," he said.
St. Francis dedicated himself to living the Gospel in a radical way, preaching its message far and wide and renewing the whole Church, the pope said.
However, as a true saint and member of the Church, Francis did not attempt to do anything "without or against the pope, but only with the pope," he said. Francis "knew that every charism given by the Holy Spirit must be placed at the service of the body of Christ, which is the Church, therefore he acted in full communion with the ecclesiastical authorities."
In 1219, St. Francis went to Egypt and met with the Muslim leader, Sultan Malik al-Kamil.
"I want to underline this episode in the life of St. Francis because of its great relevance. At a time when there was a conflict between Christianity and Islam, Francis - armed only with his faith and his personal meekness - successfully followed the path of dialogue," the pope said.
St. Francis' desire to speak to the sultan and the sultan's cordial welcome is "a model that must inspire relations between Christians and Muslims today as well, promoting a dialogue in truth, mutual respect and understanding," he said.
Another lesson St. Francis can teach Christians today, the pope said, is a proper attitude toward money and material comforts.
Although born into a wealthy family, Francis' conversion led him to understand how living the Gospel meant having "a sober lifestyle and a detachment from material goods," the pope said.
LOVE OF GOD'S CREATURES
St. Francis' continuing popularity also is due to his sensitivity to the work of God through creation, he said.
"Love for other people and for all God's creatures is born from love of Christ," the pope said.
St. Francis' message is "very relevant today," the pope said, because human interventions are sustainable "only if they respect creation and do not damage the environment."
"Francis reminds us that God's wisdom and benevolence is displayed in creation; nature is a language which speaks to us of God and through which God speaks to us," Pope Benedict said.
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