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For U.S. pilgrims, Mass at Assisi Connects Vision of Pope, Saint

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For U.S. pilgrims, Mass at Assisi Connects Vision of Pope, Saint

ASSISI,Italy (CNS) — Before he was inducted into the College of Cardinals Nov. 19,
Cardinal-designate Blase J. Cupich of Chicago connected Pope Francis’ vision of
the church going out to the peripheries to be “a poor church for the poor” with
St. Francis’ vision of restoring and rebuilding the church.

archbishop made that connection in a homily Nov. 18 at a Mass he celebrated for
more than 160 U.S. pilgrims from Chicago, Omaha, Nebraska, and Rapid City,
South Dakota in the lower Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi. He made similar
points a day earlier in an address to the group while they were in Rome.

his homily, Cardinal-designate Cupich noted how the pilgrims’ journey to both
Rome and Assisi was “really tying together the voice of Pope Francis with the
voice of St. Francis as we move forward in the life of the church today and
particularly for the church in Chicago.”

Jubilee Year of Mercy pilgrimage was organized by Catholic Extension, a 111-year-old
Chicago-based papal society that builds churches and the church in America’s
mission dioceses. The archbishop of Chicago also is
the chancellor of Catholic Extension.

Besides a large contingent of Chicago Catholics and associates and donors of Catholic
Extension, the pilgrimage also included many members of the
cardinal-designate’s family; a significant number of pilgrims from Rapid City, a mission diocese where he served from 1998 until 2010; and from the
Archdiocese of Omaha, where he grew up and started his ministry as a priest.

Cardinal-designate Cupich noted that later that day the pilgrims also would visit the Basilica of
St. Clare on the other end of Assisi. He he based his homily on a meditation on
the cross the pilgrims would visit there: “the Cross of San Damiano, from which
St. Francis heard the voice of Jesus calling him to restore, rebuild and remake
my church and make it new.”

the church in this moment, he said, “unity is prior. We must come together.
Contemporary society so often divides us.” Rather than focusing on differences among
people, the cardinal-designate quoted Pope Francis, “who has been reminding us
that what counts is the fact that we are each other’s brothers and sisters.”

altar in the lower basilica is right above St. Francis’ tomb. The pilgrims’
hymns filled the cavernous church, echoing off 12th- and 13th-century frescoes
celebrating the life of Christ and the life of St. Francis. During Communion,
the pilgrims sang “Make Me a Channel of Your Peace,” a hymn based on the “Prayer
of St. Francis.”

archbishop asked the pilgrims that when they prayed at the Cross of San Damiano
to “see it as an opportunity, an occasion for Jesus to speak to you and to
speak to the church in the Archdiocese of Chicago.” He said Catholics must not “be
afraid to die to ourselves because that is what we need to do with regard to
what divides us, but also to make sure that we celebrate all that unites us
together, finding that we are truly people who live by God’s promises.”

Chicago, Cardinal-designate Cupich has initiated a “Renew My Church” initiative
that is designed to refocus and renew the archdiocese’s parishes and
institutions so they can respond better to the pastoral, ecclesial and societal
challenges of the day.

urged the pilgrims to remind themselves as they walked across this “City of
Peace” later that “we are taking the next steps in our lives, and walking
together in the direction of God’s great promise.”

“Continue your pilgrimage,” he urged them, “knowing that, as we share bread together, it
will nourish our souls and allow us to take on that noble mission of St.
Francis and to respond ourselves as he urges us on his great mission.”

Nov. 17, Cardinal-designate Blase Cupich addressed the pilgrims at the end of a
Mass celebrated by Cardinal Pietro Parolin in the Pauline Chapel inside the Apostolic
Palace of the Vatican.

Speaking to Cardinal Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal-designate
Cupich described how the Vatican official has helped all those associated with
Catholic Extension “to see how what we do is so very important and at the heart
of what is done here in the Holy See: to be that church, which is mission,
always going out to the peripheries, making sure that no one is left behind.

is the role and the work of the Holy See, which we get to share in our own way
through Catholic Extension,” he said.

Calling it “a feast for the eyes,” the Chicago archbishop noted the beauty of the
Pauline Chapel and the privilege of celebrating Mass with Cardinal Parolin for
the Catholic Extension pilgrims. Stunning frescoes surrounded the group,
including Michelangelo’s last two paintings, “The Conversion of Saul” and “The
Crucifixion of St. Peter.”

he reminded the pilgrims that the artists and church leaders who created these
places inside the Vatican “were not interested in just opulence, in just
showiness. Rather, they wanted to reflect a faith that said that they
experienced the lavish love of God.

just as there is so much lavish beauty here, they wanted people to come into
these beautiful spaces and reflect on how God is so very loving, so abundant
and opulent in his love for us.”

Cardinal-designate Cupich urged pilgrims to “take a moment to reflect on how God has lavished his
love on us personally and in that way allow us to have our thanksgiving to have
so much more lasting impact than just saying thanks today.”


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