The Pardon of Assisi opens at the Portiuncula

“Today is not just any day, but 1 August, on which we opened a door here at the Portiuncula to humbly ask for and receive the Pardon of Assisi”. These were the words of Minister General Br Massimo Fusarelli in his homily at the Mass that officially began the Pardon of Assisi. The joy of this feast of forgiveness radiates every year from the little church where St Francis loved to retire in prayer, the Portiuncula, enclosed today by the basilica of St Mary of the Angels. It was there that Francis, inspired by a vision of the Virgin Mary, wished to ask for a plenary indulgence for anyone who visited the Portiuncula, and Pope Honorius III granted it to him for one day each year, on 2 August. Over the centuries, the concession underwent many variations until it was extended to every day of the year for the Portiuncula church. However, it was only extended to 2 August for all parish and Franciscan churches.

“The Virgin of the Angels welcomed St Francis in that chapel he loved so much, and today she welcomes so many who invoke the Lord’s forgiveness”, continued Br Massimo in his homily at the opening mass. “Today in this simple chapel, she welcomes all of us, especially those who still pray for peace, rest and the true consolation of reconciliation“. The Minister General also referred to recent events: “This year, how can we open the door of forgiveness and pass through it without thinking of the closed door of peace in Ukraine, as in so many other parts of the world”. Br Massimo emphasised that this forgiveness is for everyone, even those who are behind closed doors. “There are so many closed doors because they have been barred by the culture of abuse and silence, of power over others and of not giving and not opening doors, new ways to life. The forgiveness that God offers us in Christ and makes possible in the Holy Spirit is a new creation; it is the beginning of a new world, a true transformation”. According to the Minister General, this is possible because forgiveness is the fruit of the Cross of the Lord Jesus, of his Paschal Mystery of death and resurrection. Therefore, we can always approach this forgiveness through the sacrament of reconciliation.

“The Door is open, the table of forgiveness is set, and the Mother welcomes us: come, let us enter, let us not fear”, concluded the Minister General. At the end of the Mass, he then made his way in procession to the door of the Portiuncula and officially opened it after a prayer on his knees. The crowd, already filling the church, began to line up in an orderly manner to participate in the grace of this feast of the Pardon.

“Forgiveness is the gift that encloses one of our greatest desires: that of peace,” explained Br Francesco Piloni, Minister of the Seraphic Province of Assisi. “But there is no peace without forgiveness, reconciliation, or picking up those scattered pieces that remain in our inner and outer lives, without meaning. Forgiveness reconciles them, recomposes them and gives peace as its fruit”. Br Piloni explained that Assisi is again ready to welcome pilgrims after the pandemic years. “Many are on their way, and already in the early hours of this morning, we heard the first groups arriving, asking for directions to the places of confession. After two years, the Franciscan March of the Pardon, this year in its fortieth edition, with the theme “Infinitely Good”, has started again. There are young people and families on their way from all over Italy to meet the infinitely good, which is the desire for a peace to be found on an interior and exterior level”. In past years, the pilgrims had been few, but their intercessory prayer was felt strongly: “To intercede means to place oneself in the middle, between the struggles of today’s humanity and God, and to stand there like Moses with hands raised to God”, said Br Piloni. Even today, in the face of humanity in the grip of mistrust, it is precisely from Assisi that hope can start again: “Assisi and the Franciscans throughout the world still gather this desire to try to believe, together, as a fraternity, that life has won, the victory of Christ, the Passover of Christ is the final word over every human mistrust”.

The entrance into the basilica of the groups on their way for the 40th Franciscan March will take place tomorrow at 2.30 p.m., but already in these hours, hundreds of people are arriving from all over the world. Welcoming the arriving pilgrims with joy is Br Massimo Travascio, Custos of the Porziuncola. “During the years of the pandemic, many had followed us on our media and social networks, but there was a great desire to return here to Assisi,” said the Custos. “Our task is to be here to welcome as many pilgrims as possible who want to have this beautiful experience of Pardon. The Porziuncola is a door that is always open, and to see that people can pass through this door is always a great joy”.

Custos for two years, Br Travascio knows the place well as he lived here before: “I guard the Portiuncula, but I also feel guarded by the Portiuncula. Together with the friars, we try to preserve the silence, to take care of the liturgy well, so that people entering the Portiuncula can have this experience of meeting the Lord”. Even though the Feast of the Pardon of Assisi will last only until midnight on 2 August, the doors of the Portiuncula will remain open all year round to those who wish. “Saint Francis of Assisi loved this place, and he would willingly withdraw here to pray and be in silence, to cultivate a relationship of friendship with the Lord,” concluded Br Travascio. Today we need to resume relationships, and we know that one relationship is the foundation of all others: the relationship with the Lord. Therefore, the invitation is to come back here, to find a welcoming place where we can look inside and see the grace of God”.

Beatrice Guarrera