Benedict XVI traveled to Assisi's cathedral of San Rufino where he met with priests, deacons, religious, superiors and students of the pontifical seminary of Umbria.
In his talk to them, the Holy Father insisted that "it is not enough" for the millions of faithful who come to Assisi to admire St. Francis, rather they must "be attracted by Francis' charism, they must be helped to accept the essential nucleus of Christian life and to tend towards its 'highest measure,' which is sanctity."
"Ever more often, Christians in our time find themselves facing the tendency to accept a diminished Christ, admired in His extraordinary humanity but rejected in the profound mystery of His divinity. Francis himself suffers a kind of mutilation when he is called upon as a witness to certain values — certainly important and appreciated by modern culture — but forgetting that his profound choice, what we could call the heart of his life, was his commitment to Christ."
"The name of Francis, together with that of Clare, call out for this city to distinguish itself for its particular missionary energy," said the Holy Father. And as a consequence, "it is necessary for this Church to live an intense experience of communion."
In this context, the Pope recalled his Motu Proprio "Totius orbis," promulgated two years ago, in which he established that "the two great papal basilicas of St. Francis and of St. Mary of the Angels, while continuing to enjoy the special attention of the Holy See through the pontifical legate [Cardinal Attilio Nicora], from a pastoral point of view passed under the jurisdiction of the bishop of the city," Bishop Domenico Sorrentino. "I am truly happy," he went on, "to know that the new arrangement has begun with a show of great willingness and collaboration, and I am certain it will bring abundant fruits."
"The appropriateness of a unitary structure such as that ensured by the Motu Proprio," the Pope continued, "was also suggested by the need for coordinated and effective pastoral action." If communities of consecrated life "have the right to expect acceptance and respect for their charism, they must nonetheless avoid living as 'islands,' and integrate themselves with conviction and generosity in service and in the pastoral plan adopted by the bishop for the whole diocesan community."
Addressing himself directly to priests and deacons, the Holy Father said: "Your enthusiasm and your communion, your life of prayer and your generous ministry are indispensable. It can happen that we feel tired or afraid in the face of new challenges and new difficulties, but we must have faith that the Lord will give us the strength necessary to put into effect what He asks of us. He will ensure that vocations do not fail if we implore them with faith, and if together we undertake to seek and defend them with … a pastoral care rich in ardor and inventiveness, capable of showing the beauty of priestly ministry."
Benedict XVI concluded his talk by addressing consecrated men and women. "You are a great resource for the Church," he told them, "both in the field of pastoral care in parishes and in the support you provide for so many pilgrims, who often come to ask your hospitality" but "also expect to find a spiritual witness." To cloistered nuns he said: "Know how to hold high the flame of contemplation. Be signs of Christ's love, to whom all your brothers and sisters can look as they struggle with the fatigue of apostolic life and of lay commitment in the world."