Encounter and Dialogue in the Footsteps of St. Francis: A Buddhist Pilgrimage to Assisi

This past May witnessed an extraordinary commemoration of the culture of encounter initiated by St. Francis and Sultan al-Malik al-Kamal 800 years ago: a Walking Mindfulness Pilgrimage from the Sanctuary of La Verna to Assisi by Buddhist Monastics of Plum Village (France) and group of their Lay Practitioners.

On May 10th, the pilgrims, who entitled their pilgrimage In the Footsteps of St. Francis, were warmly welcomed at La Verna by Br. Francesco Brasa, Guardian, the Brothers of the Fraternity. After four days of gracious hospitality at the Sanctuary, during which they participated in the daily Procession to the Stigmata and were privileged to hear Br. Masseo’s account of the Stigmata read to them by Br. Francesco, the pilgrims set out on foot to Assisi, where they arrived on May 26th.

Br. Massimo Chieruzzi, the Animator for Dialogue of the Seraphic Province, warmly welcomed the pilgrims to Assisi, who at that point number 9 monks and nuns and over 100 friends and Lay Practitioners, including many from across Italy. In his welcome, Br. Massimo recalled St. Francis’ encounter with the Sultan. While noting that we do not know all that transpired between the Saint and the Sultan, Br. Massimo stated that “What we know for sure is that it was a peaceful meeting, in which a friendship and a mutual enrichment was born between the two. …May our meeting follow in this channel of hope!” (click here Br. Massimo’s welcome address)

Day of Mindfulness followed as the pilgrims, accompanied by their friend Br. John Wong, Custos of Singapore-Malaysia-Brunei and Member of the OFM Commission for Dialogue, who also welcomed them at La Verna, visited the places sanctified by the lives of Sts. Francis and Clare. These visits included a “Walk of Mindfulness” to the Sanctuary of San Damiano, where the local Fraternity and its Guardian, Br. Massimo Reschiglian, hosted the pilgrims for lunch.

For all those who participated in this extraordinary pilgrimage, it was, indeed, a meeting that followed the channel of hope that St. Francis opened 800 years ago. May many more be caught in its waters of encounter, dialogue and friendship!