On October 4, 2023, His Eminence, Cardinal Mauro GAMBETTI presided over the celebrations for the Solemnity of St. Francis of Assisi, our founder. The events took place at the Pontifical Minor Basilica of San Francesco in Palermo, [Sicily] Italy.
There is no doubt that October 4th is a date at the very heart of our Franciscan spirituality. It commemorates the Paschal mystery of St. Francis. This year, however, the date was even more meaningful and more intensely felt around the world because it coincided with the 2023 Franciscan Centenary celebrations, which this year commemorate the 800th anniversary of the approval of the Later Rule and the creation of the Christmas at Greccio.
The Solemnity of St. Francis began with the vigil celebration of the Transitus. At sunset, a fire was lit outside the basilica signifying the light of Easter. Next, there was a procession carrying an icon of St. Francis into the basilica. Once inside, the evocative rite was celebrated, recalling St. Francis’ passage from his earthly to his heavenly life.
On October 4th, our confrere Cardinal GAMBETTI presided over Mass. The Minister Provincial of the Province of St. Agatha and St. Lucy in Italy (Sicily), Friar Gaspare LA BARBERA, concelebrated along with various friars and other priests. As civil and military authorities looked on, the Mayor of Palermo, Roberto LAGALLA, presented an offering of oil and lit the lamp that burns before the image of St. Francis, while he read the act of entrustment. At the end of the celebration, it was announced that next year the Region of Sicily will take its turn to make a pilgrimage to Assisi in order to make an offering of oil to light the lamp that burns in front of the tomb of St. Francis.
The celebrations provided an opportunity for another commemorative event in the basilica. The same day marked the 800th anniversary of the founding of the Franciscan presence in Palermo (1224 – 2024). That was when, at the dawn of the Order, the first friars arrived in Palermo, settling in the same area where the friary complex stands today.
Finally, two more important anniversaries were announced for 2024: the 100th anniversary of the church’s elevation to a Pontifical Minor Basilica (1924-2024), and the 400th anniversary of what is commonly called the “Bloody Vow”: the commitment made by the people of Palermo to even shed their blood in defense of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. That anniversary will officially take place on December 8, 2023, coinciding with the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.
The Minister Provincial went on to say: “We welcome these centenaries as an opportunity to reflect, above all, on our personal and communal commitment as consecrated and lay people who follow Christ in the footsteps of St. Francis, to try to find solutions for the issues we face today, through the experience that, after eight centuries, is still alive and still has much to say. We thank the Lord for the gift of St. Francis and the Franciscan Order, and we ask, that through the intercession of St. Francis and Holy Mary Immaculate, the Lord may teach each of us to play our part in the Church and in society.”
The friars of the Basilica of San Francesco in Palermo