The 16th day of the 2015 General Chapter, Tuesday, May 26th, was certainly a day to remember for the Chapter participants. The Chapter took a break from business and travelled to Rome for a private audience with Pope Francis.
The day began earlier than usual because departure was scheduled for 7.30a.m. The bus journey was quiet, and at 10.45 a.m. we walked down the Via della Conciliazione, towards the colonnades of St. Peter’s Square and the “Bronze Door”. Excitement mounted, particularly while waiting for our moment to go to the “Sala Clementina” where the audience took place. We walked through the corridors and stairways of the Vatican and finally arrived at the Sala Clementina. Once the group had settled there, Pope Francis walked in and was very warmly greeted. Archbishop José Rodríguez Carballo, Secretary of CICLSAL and former Minister General also attended the audience.
The Minister General greeted the Pope Francis, and spoke about the work the General Chapter has been engaged in. Then the Pope addressed the friars and spoke about the love and esteem in which the Franciscans have been, and continue to be held by the people. He urged the friars to preserve this by remaining faithful to authentic Franciscan life. He also encouraged the friars to overcome difficulties by deepening mutual trust in their fraternal relationships, and he stressed the value of minority in the life of the ‘lesser brothers’. At the conclusion of his speech the Pope greeted every single friar, which was a very special experience for all concerned.
After the audience, the buses (full of very happy friars) headed to the south of Rome, to the Shrine of “Divine Love”. There we had lunch and spent some time visiting the shrine churches which are the most popular place of devotion for the citizens of Rome. Then we started our journey back to Santa Maria degli Angeli, tired but still uplifted by the experience and ready to resume the daily routine of our Chapter.
Udienza Papa Francesco – Discorso dal Papa