Minute-by-minute coverage of the historic visit to the birthplace of St Francis

18:40 The bells of Assisi peal as the Pope leaves town. Thank you for following the visit on this live blog. Good night and God bless.

18:30 As night falls in Assisi and Pope Francis returns to the Domus Sanctae Marthae for a welcome rest, let’s review this remarkable day in a still young pontificate.

The day-trip to Assisi came at the end of what veteran Vatican reporter John Allen described as one of the busiest Catholic news weeks in the past 20 years.

On the eve of the pilgrimage another seasoned observer, Rocco Palmo, predicted that this could be “the defining day of this pontificate”.

How has Francis defined himself today? Above all, as a pastor. The first people he sought out were not senior clergy or town dignitaries, but profoundly disabled young people.

He also marked himself out as a radical, but not in the way that many predicted. He referred to media rumours that he had been planning some spectacular act of renunciation in Assisi. He hadn’t come to perform a single dramatic gesture, he said, but rather to call each of us to renounce our own worldliness and be conformed ever more closely to Christ.

Francis wants his revolution to take place in people’s hearts and not merely behind the walls of the Vatican. That is the message of this memorable day in Assisi.

18:15 We are on the home stretch of this whirlwind papal visit.

All that remains is for Francis to visit the Sanctuary of Rivotorto, where St Francis and his first followers first lived. He will also stop St Francis’s little dwelling known as the Turgurio.

The Pope will then leave by helicopter from Rivotorto for the Vatican.

18:08 Francis blesses the young people and asks them to pray for him. He then tours the piazza of the Basilica of St Mary Major in the Popemobile. There are joyous scenes. Francis seems perfectly at home in the birthplace of his saintly namesake.

17:43 Pope Francis is now speaking to the young people who are massed outside the Basilica of St Mary Major.

He tells them that today’s society “privileges individual rights, rather than the family”, the Catholic News Service reports.

There’s a “culture of the provisional… but Jesus didn’t save us provisionally. He saved us definitively,” tweets Vatican Insider.

“Marriage is a real vocation,” the Pope explains, “just like priesthood and religious life.”

The Pope recalls that the mother of a man in his 30s asked him what she could do to encourage her son to get married. “Stop ironing his shirts,” he replied.

He says that celibacy is not a negative decision, but a great “yes” to God.

He then speaks about the reality of evil in the world. “Just read the newspapers,” he says. But God’s love has triumphed. That’s the Good News of the Gospel.

16.50 We’re taking a short break now. You can watch the Pope live here.

16.48 The Pope is entering the building.

16.39 The Pope is out of the Popemobile and is greeting and blessing disabled children.

16.33 In front of the basillica, the Holy Father hugs and kisses children brought to him, and waves to the crowd.

16.31 The Pope hugs a disabled man.

16.29 The towns and villages of Umbria are being named by the MC.

16.28 The Pope is arriving…

16.23 The young people are singing in the piazza outside the basicalla of St Mary of the Angels.

16.18 Archbishop Renato Boccardo of Spoleto-Norcia will give the initial address to the young gathered on the square in front of the Basilica of St Mary of the Angels.

16.15 An excerpt of the Pope’s address to nuns at the Basilica of St Clare

“When a cloistered nun consecrates her entire life to God, a transformation occurs that can never be fully understood. We would normally believe that this nun would become isolated, alone with the Absolute, alone with God… It is an ascetic life, penitential… But this is not the path of a cloistered Catholic nun, neither a Christian one. The path is through Jesus Christ: always. Jesus Christ is at the centre of your life, of your repentance, of your community life, of your prayers and even of the universality of prayer. And on this road occurs the opposite of who people think will be an ascetic cloistered nun: when she follows the path of contemplation of Jesus Christ, of prayer and of repentance with Jesus Christ, she greatly becomes human.”

15.58 The Pope is now leaving the basilica. His next stop is to pray at the Porziuncola, the stone chapel built by St Francis of Assisi and his early followers. Then, at 16.45 UK time, he will meet young people in front of the Basilica of St Mary of the Angels and will answer some of their questions.

At 17.45 UK time, he will visit the Sanctuary of Rivotorto, where St Francis and his early followers first lived, and visit St Francis’s hovel, the “Turgurio”. Half an hour later the Pope will get a helicopter back to the Vatican.

15:49 Now the Pope is greeting each of the nuns individually. Some are even hugging him.

15.46 Pope Francis prays for the joy the community get from their contemplation of God. He asks them not to forget to pray for him.

15.45 “Cherish community life because the Holy Spirit is at the centre of community life.”

15.42 A nun in the Church is on the way to being an expert in humanity, the Pope says. She possesses a “maternal holiness”.

15:40 Catholic News Service tweets “#PopeFrancis: People see the difference between a flight attendant’s smile and that of a nun who is filled with joy.”

15:39 Pope Francis: We can all smile – but a true smile is with joy.

15:38 Catholic News Service tweets “#PopeFrancis: When a nun consecrates her life to prayer, some think she becomes isolated… But isolation isn’t part of a Catholic nun’s life.”

15:36 The Pope is addressing an audience mainly made up of cloistered nuns and the Council of Cardinals.

15.34 Pope Francis is now standing before the crucifix of St Damian, which spoke to St Francis of Assisi, urging him to rebuild the Church.

15.24 The Pope places flowers by St Clare’s tomb and kneels to pray.

15:19 Pope Francis is entering the Basilica of St Clare, where he will venerate the tomb of St Clare of Assisi, who was a follower of St Francis and who founded the Order of Poor Ladies.

St Clare is also the patron saint of television, as, toward the end of her life, when she was too ill to attend Mass, an image of the service was displayed on the wall of her cell.

15:04 The congregation are singing to celebrate St Francis’s Feast Day.

15:00 Pope Francis is due to go now to the Basillica of St Clare and venerate her tomb. He will also pray to the Crucifix of St Damian which spoke to St Francis of Assisi and told him to rebuild Christ’s Church.

14:56 Pope Francis emphasises the importance of missionary work. He urges people not be afraid to go out and meet people in these situations but only with the Word of God in your heart and walking with the Church. It is not us who saves the world-it’s God.

14:51 Pope Francis says that married couples should always forgive one another and never go to bed on an argument.

14:46 Pope Francis says how sometimes homilies can be interminable, boring and difficult to understand. He says parents also have to speak the Word of God to set an example for their children.He also says that the hearts of catechists have to be on fire in order to ignite the hearts of children. We have to ask ourselves “what place does the Word of God have in our lives?”

14:44 Pope Francis says that the Church doesn’t grow through proselytism, but through attraction.

14:42 Pope Francis is now addressing the congregation at San Rufino Cathedral. He has set them some homework- to find out the dates of their baptism.

14:38 Pope Francis visited the fonts where St Francis and St Clare were baptised.

14:29 Archbishop Sorrentino is now addressing Pope Francis in San Rufino Cathedral.

14:27 Rocco Palmo tweets:

@roccopalmo: “Today won’t “really” be complete until somebody, somehow shows up with an animal for Pope to bless.”

14:26 The locals have made a special carpet for the Pope

14:24 Pope Francis is now arriving at the “San Rufino” Cathedral

14:13 He is then due to visit the “San Rufino” Cathedral, where Saints Francis and Clare were baptised, to meet with clergy, religious men and women, and other representatives of the diocese. He will also make a speech.

14:01 Pope Francis is due to begin this afternoon’s events by praying in St Francis’s monastic cell

14:00 The lunch break in Assisi is nearly over

13:40 : Catholic News Service capture Pope Francis and a local boy sitting down to lunch

11:55 As the Pope is at lunch, we shall return after 1pm. See you then.

11:46 If Francis were alive today he would also have had no time for Catholics who focus exclusively on politics in the Church, the Pope’s attire, Vatican intrigues and personalities, scandals and the rest. These were all around him in his own day. Our blogger Francis Phillips writes today about St Francis.

11:39 At the end of the Eucharistic celebration the Pope will go by car to the Caritas reception centre, where he will have lunch with Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino of Assisi, and the city’s poor.

11:35 Italy’s patron saint day comes during a period of national morning after yesterday’s tragedy in Lampedusa.

11:33 Address by Mayor of Perugia, Dr Wladimiro Boccali

11:32 The Pope is blessing the oil

11:27 Catiuscia Marini, President of the region of Umbria, addresses the congregation

11:23 The Umbria Region will also be offering its famous olive oil this year to fuel the lamp on St Francis’s tomb, which will be lit by the mayor of Assisi – a rite that has been repeated annually since October 4, 1939, when Pope Pius XII proclaimed St Francis to be Italy’s main patron saint.

11:19 Here is the Pope venerating the tomb of St Francis earlier this morning:


11:17 The lamp on St Francis’s tomb will soon be lit by the mayor of Assisi – a rite that has been repeated annually since October 4, 1939, when Pope Pius XII proclaimed St Francis to be Italy’s main patron saint. The fuel for the lamp will be olive oil from Umbria.

11:13 The Mass has ended.

11:06 Priests distribute Holy Communion.

11:01 They are singing the Our Father.

10:49 The Pope is now consecrating the offertory.

10.41 Vatican Radio has the full text of the Pope’s homily at Mass in Assisi. Here is an excerpt:

Where did Francis’s journey to Christ begin? It began with the gaze of the crucified Jesus. With letting Jesus look at us at the very moment that he gives his life for us and draws us to himself. Francis experienced this in a special way in the Church of San Damiano, as he prayed before the cross which I too will have an opportunity to venerate. On that cross, Jesus is depicted not as dead, but alive! Blood is flowing from his wounded hands, feet and side, but that blood speaks of life. Jesus’ eyes are not closed but open, wide open: he looks at us in a way that touches our hearts. The cross does not speak to us about defeat and failure; paradoxically, it speaks to us about a death which is life, a death which gives life, for it speaks to us of love, the love of God incarnate, a love which does not die, but triumphs over evil and death. When we let the crucified Jesus gaze upon us, we are re-created, we become “a new creation”. Everything else starts with this: the experience of transforming grace, the experience of being loved for no merits of our own, in spite of our being sinners. That is why Saint Francis could say with Saint Paul: “Far be it for me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ”

10:38 The Pope prays to St Francis for peace in the Middle East. Catholic News Service tweets “May there be an end to armed conflicts … may [the] clash of arms be silenced… May hatred yield to love, injury to pardon & discord to unity.”

10:36 We are not instruments of destruction, Pope Francis says. We must respect creation, and the human person, the centre of God’s creation.

10:34 The Pope prays to St Francis to ask us all to be instruments of peace. He then reads from the Canticle of the Sun by St Francis.

10:32 The peace St Francis speaks of is the peace of Christ, it’s not saccharine, nor “a kind of pantheistic harmony”, Pope Francis says.

10:30 The Pope is contemplating Christ on the Cross, saying that love conquers death.

10:29 Pope Francis gives the Franciscan greeting, “Pace e bene a tutti” – “peace and goodness to all.”

10:25 The Gospel reading was Matthew 11:25-30.
Also: First Reading: Sirach 50:1, 3-4, 6-7. Psalm: Psalm 16:1-2, 5, 7-8, 11. Second Reading: Galatians 6:14-18.

10:20 Catholic News Service tweets “Leaders of Italy’s Muslim community present for Mass with #PopeFrancis in Assisi” (with pic)

10:13 Our associate editor Madeleine Teahan (@MadeleineTeahan) is live on Sky News throughout the morning.

10:04 It’s a beautiful setting for the Mass. You can watch it live here.

10:01 The Mass is beginning in front of the Basilica of St Francis. Catholic News Service has excerpts of the Pope’s prepared speeches this morning – ie, what he would have said if he stuck to his script.

09:58 Vatican Radio correspondent Christopher Wells describes Pope Francis meeting sick and disabled people at the Seraphic Institute earlier this morning:

As he stopped to meet each person, they would reach out to him, clasp his hand, lean in close to him and share with him their thoughts and feelings. One disabled child played with his pectoral Cross as the Pope beamed. Each individual encounter was a precious moment.

09:54 Thousands of people are waiting in the square for Pope Francis to celebrate Mass in a few minutes.

09:50 Jimmy Akin at the National Catholic Register offers a short guide to St Francis. He points out that the name “Francesco” was not a religious name, but the name St Francis’s father gave him when he was a baby, meaning “the Frenchman”.

The Catholic Encyclopaedia describes his father’s reaction when St Francis sold his horse and some drapery to pay to repair the chapel of St Damian:

The elder Bernardone, a most niggardly man, was incensed beyond measure at his son’s conduct, and Francis, to avert his father’s wrath, hid himself in a cave near St. Damian’s for a whole month.

When he emerged from this place of concealment and returned to the town, emaciated with hunger and squalid with dirt, Francis was followed by a hooting rabble, pelted with mud and stones, and otherwise mocked as a madman.

Finally, he was dragged home by his father, beaten, bound, and locked in a dark closet.

Freed by his mother during Bernardone’s absence, Francis returned at once to St. Damian’s, where he found a shelter with the officiating priest, but he was soon cited before the city consuls by his father.

The latter, not content with having recovered the scattered gold from St. Damian’s, sought also to force his son to forego his inheritance.
This Francis was only too eager to do; he declared, however, that since he had entered the service of God he was no longer under civil jurisdiction.

Having therefore been taken before the bishop, Francis stripped himself of the very clothes he wore, and gave them to his father, saying: “Hitherto I have called you my father on earth; henceforth I desire to say only ‘Our Father who art in Heaven.'”

09:43 Pope Francis has left the crypt. At 10am he will celebrate Mass in the square in front of the Basilica of St Francis.

09:40 Gerard O’Connell tweets “Pope now praying at tomb of St Francis eyes closed in silence. He placed three white roses on the tomb of the saint.”

09:32 Pope Francis has arrived at the tomb of St Francis of Assisi. You can watch it live here.

Robert Mickens tweets: “Papa Francesco seemed happier with disabled and poor than in the sumptuous basilica. The first time in his life to visit Assisi.”

08:50 Setting aside his prepared speech once again Pope Francis says the Church needs to strip itself of the greatest threat, “the threat of worldliness”.

According to the Catholic News Service, he adds: “Let’s pray for the grace that the Lord will give all of us the courage to strip off the spirit of the world, the cancer of society.”

08:35 The Pope has arrived at the residence of the Archbishop of Assisi. In the room where St Francis famously stripped off his rich clothes to embrace a life of poverty, Pope Francis will meet the poor assisted by Caritas.

The Archbishop of Assisi has just told Francis he is the first pope ever to visit the room where the saint tore off his clothes, in defiance of his wealthy father, reports the Catholic News Service.

John Allen tweets: “Archbishop Sorrentino says some 300 Jews were hidden and saved in the same room where St Francis stripped. Pope Francis greeted one survivor this AM”.

08:30 You can watch today’s papal events in Assisi live via the Vatican news website, News.va

08:15 The Pope’s next major stop is the Church of San Damiano.

The Catholic News Service sets the scene:

“He will visit the Church of St. Damian in Assisi. This is the spot where the 13th-century Francis was praying in a crumbling church and heard Jesus speaking from the cross, telling him to repair the church. The saint carried out the work with his own hands.

“Pope Benedict XVI once said that ‘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.'”

08:10 Gerard O’Connell tweets: “Pope was so moved by visit to disabled children that he has asked to return there again today before leaving Assisi”.

0805: Vatican Radio reports:

“After words of welcome from the mayor of Assisi, Claudio Ricci, and the president of the Serafico Institute, Francesca Di Maolo, the Pope addressed the people gathered. He put aside by his prepared message and, obviously inspired by his encounter, spoke off the cuff, comparing the scars of Christ to the suffering carried by the young people before him. ‘These scars (in the sick) need to be recognized and listened to,’ he said. After the Resurrection, Jesus appeared to his Apostles, who recognized him by his scars.

“Referring to the Eucharist in the tabernacle, he said: ‘Jesus chooses to be present there in the simplicity and meekness of the bread. And Jesus is hidden in these children, these young people.

“A Christian adores Jesus, seeks Jesus, knows how to recognize the scars of Jesus. ‘When Jesus rose he was beautiful,’ he continued. ‘He didn’t have his wounds on his body, but he wanted to keep the scars, and he brought them with him to heaven. The scars of Jesus are here, and they are in heaven before the Father. We care for the scars of Jesus here, and he from heaven shows us his scars and tells all of us, “I am waiting for you”.’

“The Pope concluded by giving all of those present his blessing, which was followed by applause and shouts of ‘Long live the Pope!’”

07:40 Gerard O’Connell reports on Twitter: “Pope puts aside his text and speaks from the heart saying Christ is hidden in the wounds of these children. These are the wounds of Christ”.

07:20 Pope Francis is meeting young people with severe disabilities at the Serafico Institute.

Tablet Rome corespondent Robert Mickens tweets: “P. Francesco begins Assisi visit with very moving & warm encounter at institute for sick & disabled kids & adults”.

Gerard O’Connell adds: “Truly moving scenes as Pope moves among the disabled. Pope is accompanied by the 8 cardinals from all continents who are his advisors”.

07:00 BST Pope Francis is due to venerate the tomb of St Francis of Assisi today during his one-day visit to the city.

The Pope left the Vatican by helicopter at 7am before embarking on a busy 11-hour schedule to commemorate the life of his namesake.

The first item of Pope Francis’s Assisi itinerary is his meeting with young people with severe disabilities at the Serafico Institute.

He will then visit the Church of St Damian where St Francis prayed during the 13th century in a crumbling church before he heard Jesus speaking from the Cross, asking Francis to repair the Church.
He will also celebrate Mass outside the Basilica of St Francis and venerate the tomb where the saint is buried.

He will also visit the Basilica of St Clare and venerate her tomb, he will pray before the Crucifix of St Damian, greet the nuns there and deliver a speech.