Pope trip to St. Francis' town highlights goals

By Nicole Winfield

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Oct. 4 2013 8:59 a.m. MDT

St. Francis was considered a radical disobedient for having renounced everything and given himself entirely to his faith, but that's just the type of radical witness Pope Francis wants for today's Catholics. Francis told Argentine pilgrims during World Youth Day in July to make a "mess" in their dioceses and shake things up. He hopes the church will stop being so inward-looking, and instead go out to the peripheries to spread the faith, just like St. Francis. The pope's first trip outside Rome was to Lampedusa, a southern Italian island closer to Africa than the Italian mainland. His eulogy for all migrants lost at sea denounced a "globalization of indifference," a prescient message given Thursday's shipwreck off Lampedusa that killed scores of migrants. As black mourning ribbons hung from Assisi's banners, Francis proclaimed Friday "a day of tears."

A CHURCH THAT WORKS FOR PEACE AND CARES FOR THE ENVIRONMENT

St. Francis is known for his message of peace and his care for nature, but he is often misunderstood, "sweetened" into something he wasn't, Pope Francis said Friday. A Vatican spokesman put it this way: "Too often his message is lost and we reduce his role to that of a gentle, whimsical hippie who fed birds, smelled flowers and tamed wild wolves." Pope Francis said the saint's message was to truly "love one another as I have loved you," calling for an end to all the wars in the Middle East, especially Syria. The pope has been steadfast in his call for peace in Syria, inspiring hundreds of thousands of people around the world to hold a day of fasting and prayer when it appeared military strikes against the Damascus regime were imminent.

A REFORMED CHURCH

Francis was elected on a mandate to reform the church, and he has set about doing that. One of his first stops Friday was to pray at the sanctuary of St. Damian, where the saint in 1205 famously was told to take a broken church and rebuild it. The pope has just finished three days of meetings with advisers helping him rewrite the main blueprint for how the Catholic Church is governed. Ideas include having a "moderator" to make the Vatican bureaucracy run more smoothly and a revised role for the Vatican's powerful secretary of state. It also includes involving lay men and women more in the life of the church. Just as St. Francis wanted.

Follow Nicole Winfield at www.twitter.com/nwinfield

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