Pope Benedict XVI, in the birthplace of St. Francis, on Sunday paid tribute to the medieval playboy who became a simple friar preaching tolerance and love, and launched an appeal for the end of the horrors of fighting and terrorism in Iraq and the Middle East.
The pope journeyed to this Umbrian hill town, with its steep of Assisi in his mid-20s from being, as Benedict put it, the king of partying as the son of a cloth merchant, to a deeply reflective man who embraced lepers, stripped away worldly wealth and won admirers for his gentleness and simplicity.
Yes, my dear brothers and sisters, to convert oneself to love is to pass from bitterness to sweetness, from sadness to true joy, said Benedict during his homily at Mass in a courtyard below the 13th century St. Francis Basilica, where the saint is entombed. Benedict praised Francis as a man ahead of his time, for his search for peace, protection of nature, promotion of dialogue.
At the end of an outdoor Mass near St. Francis Basilica, the pontiff noted that he was speaking in this city of peace and he considered it his duty to launch from here a pressing and heartfelt appeal so that all the armed conflicts that bloody the earth may cease, so that weapons be stilled and so that everywhere hate give way to love, offense to forgiveness, and discord to union.