Francis praises the humility of the 13th century pope who resigned

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Pope Francis arrives to open the Holy Door of St. Mary in the Basilica of Collemaggio and begin the Jubilee of Forgiveness, in L'Aquila, central Italy, Sunday August 28, 2022. Pope Francis will be the first pope since Celestine V to open this Holy Door, the first in history, established with the Bull of Pardon of September 29, 1294 by Pope Celestine V. (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)

Pope Francis arrives to open the Holy Door of St. Mary in the Basilica of Collemaggio and begin the Jubilee of Forgiveness, in L’Aquila, central Italy, Sunday August 28, 2022. Pope Francis will be the first pope since Celestine V to open this Holy Door, the first in history, established with the Bull of Pardon of September 29, 1294 by Pope Celestine V. (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)

PA

On a pilgrimage to an Italian mountain town, Pope Francis on Sunday hailed the humility of a 13th-century pontiff who stepped down to live a hermit’s life, and praised him for using his brief pontificate to highlight the value of mercy and forgiveness.

Francis made a four-hour visit to L’Aquila in the central Apennine mountains, which was hit by an earthquake in 2009, killing 305 people and destroying much of the city. It is still under reconstruction.

The pontiff came to give a boost to a late summer tradition started by Pope Celestine V 728 years ago to encourage the faithful to seek forgiveness for their sins.

The Collemaggio Basilica in L’Aquila contains the remains of Celestine, who resigned in 1294 after only a few months in the papacy. As pontiff, Celestine initiated the august practice in which the faithful could pass through the holy door of the basilica. After meeting certain religious requirements, they may receive a plenary indulgence, which removes the punishment for sin.

Helpers carried Francis in a wheelchair to the austere brown wooden door of the basilica. After Francis, who has a painful knee problem, was helped up, he used a strong olive branch to knock three times on the door, which then swung open. A ramp in place, Francis limped into the basilica, then silently prayed before the mausoleum containing the remains of Celestine, whose face is covered with a silver mask.

Celestine was ridiculed by Dante in the “Divine Comedy” for cowardice in abdicating his papal role.

“The humble appear to men as weak and losers, but in reality they are the real winners because they are the only ones who fully trust the Lord and know his will,” Francis said.

“Humility is not about devaluing ourselves but rather about that healthy realism that makes us recognize our potential and also our misery,” Francis said. He hailed the “courageous” Célestin V because “no logic of power could imprison him or manage him”.

Celestine reminded everyone that mercy and forgiveness help people move from “anguish and guilt to freedom and joy,” Francis said.

As the helicopter that ferried him from the Vatican to L’Aquila earlier Sunday morning continued to circle above the city, the pilot trying to find a break in thick fog so he could land, Francis said said he was inspired to reflect on the value of mercy.

“Finally, there was a little opening (in the fog), and it slipped away,” Francis said, encouraging people, when their lives are clouded by problems, to similarly take advantage of an “opening “when the possibility of mercy presents itself. .

Before Francis, the last pope to visit L’Aquila was his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who came to comfort survivors of the 2009 earthquake and pay homage to Celestine. Benedict was due to step down in 2013, the first pontiff in nearly 600 years to do so. He now lives in a monastery on Vatican grounds.

Francis, who is 85, called the resignation an acceptable option for pontiffs who feel they can no longer adequately lead more than 1.3 billion Catholics around the world.

He greeted city residents outside the city’s Duomo, or cathedral, which is still under repair after the quake, and visited relatives of some of the victims.

Francis noted that inmates from area jails were among the well-wishers outside the cathedral. “In you, I welcome a sign of hope, because in prisons there are so many, too many victims,” François said.

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D’Emilio reported from Rome.

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