Vatican City, Jul 5, 2016 / 06:10 am (CNA/EWTN News).
On Monday, it was announced that Pope Francis will make a private pilgrimage to Assisi early next month to celebrate the eighth centenary of the dedication of the Portiuncula chapel, the site where the Franciscan order began. On Aug. 4, the Pope will visit the small chapel, which is located within the larger Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels, according to Archbishop Rino Fisichella, head of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization.
The visit was announced July 4 by Bishop Domenico Sorrentino of Assisi and representatives of the Franciscan order. The papal pilgrimage will come two days after the 800th anniversary of the “Pardon of Assisi,” a Franciscan feast which commemorates St. Francis persuading Pope Honorius III to allow pilgrims to receive a plenary indulgence at the Portiuncula.
Last week, Pope Francis remembered the Portiuncula — translated as the “little portion” — during celebrations of the 65th anniversary of Benedict XVI's priestly ordination. In his June 28 address, the Pope the described the site as “a hidden corner near the Mother of the Church, near Mary whom, because of her steadfast faith and a life entirely lived for the love of the Lord and in His love, all generations will call blessed.”
According to tradition, St. Francis experienced a vision of Jesus and Mary in the Portiuncula chapel on Aug. 1, 1216, during which he prayed that all pilgrims to the chapel would receive a plenary indulgence; the prayer was granted on the condition that he received permission from the Pope. The site is also believed to be where St. Clare — who founded the Franciscan Poor Clares — was officially received into the order by St. Francis in 1211. Last year, Pope Francis marked the Pardon of Assisi -- celebrated as the feast of Our Lady of the Angels of Porziuncola -- during his weekly Angelus address by stressing the importance of the sacrament of Confession. The feast “is a powerful reminder to bring ourselves closer to the Lord in the Sacrament of Mercy, and to receive Communion,” he said during his Aug. 2, 2015 address.
Pope Francis has previously visited the medieval town, which is located in the heart of the Italian region of Umbria. Several months after his 2013 election to the papacy, the Pope spent a day in Assisi to celebrate the Oct. 4 feast of St. Francis. The Assisi-born founder of the Franciscan order has held special significance for the current Pope, who took the name Francis upon his election to the papacy. A few days after after taking office, the pontiff told journalists he chose the name because St. Francis of Assisi “is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation; these days we do not have a very good relationship with creation, do we?”
A plenary indulgence can be received on Aug. 2 by anyone who visits a Catholic church with the intention of honoring Our Lady of the Angels and recites the Creed, the Our Father, and prays for the Pope's intentions, along with fulfilling other conditions.