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Pope to Visit Birthplace of His Namesake on Saint's Feast Day
Carol Glatz
Source: Catholic News Service
Published: Friday, May 24, 2013
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A nun walks near the Basilica of St. Francis in the early morning in 2011 in Assisi, Italy.
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis will visit the birthplace of his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, on the saint's feast day, Oct. 4.

The Vatican confirmed the trip May 23.

Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino of Assisi said he was thrilled about the visit and that it was "a great sign" of the pope's benevolence and consideration.

"It could be no other way," he said, than a trip to Assisi "for someone who took the name of Francis."

He told Vatican Radio that Pope Francis has never been to the small city in central Italy and that the pope "intends to have a very comprehensive visit that lets him walk in the footsteps of St. Francis, along his spiritual path, the path of his conversion."

Just a few days after his March 13 election, Pope Francis told Italian pilgrims during his Sunday Angelus address that choosing St. Francis as his papal name "reinforces my spiritual tie with this land, where — as you know — my family origins lie." St. Francis is the patron saint of Italy, and the pope's maternal and paternal grandparents were born in Italy and later emigrated to Argentina.

Pope Francis has said that he chose his name because St. Francis of Assisi was so devoted to the poor, a virtue he wanted to be reminded of throughout his papacy.

He told journalists March 16 that he was inspired to take the 11th-century saint's name because he was "the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation," the same created world "with which we don't have such a good relationship."

Pope Francis will be following in the footsteps of his predecessors:

-- Pope Benedict XVI visited Assisi in 2011 to participate in a pilgrimage with believers and nonbelievers for a day of reflection, dialogue and prayer for justice and peace in the world.

-- The retired pope also visited in 2007 to commemorate the 800th anniversary of the conversion of St. Francis.

Blessed John Paul II visited Assisi four times as pope:

-- In 1982 to mark the 800th anniversary of the saint's birth.

-- In 1986 to bring world religious leaders together for the first interfaith "prayer summit" for peace.

-- In 1993 to convene another interreligious meeting to pray and fast for peace in Europe, especially in a war-torn Bosnia-Herzegovina.

-- In 2002 when, in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States, the pope led a "peace train" of more than 200 religious leaders back to Assisi, where participants condemned all violence in the name of religion.

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