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Pope Francis to visit Assisi in August to mark key Franciscan anniversary

Friars wait for Pope Francis in front of the Porziuncola church, during the Pontiff's visit in 2013 (AP)

Pope Francis will visit the Porziuncola chapel in Assisi to mark the 800th anniversary of the Pardon of Assisi, it has been announced.

The visit to the Porziuncola, the small church housed inside the Basilica of St Mary of the Angels which St Francis of Assisi restored and where he founded the Franciscan order at the start of the 13th century, will take place on August 4.

The visit was announced on Monday in a statement by the Bishop of Assisi, Mgr Domenico Sorrentino, Fr Michael Perry, the Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor, Fr Claudio Durighetto, the provincial minister, and Fr Rosario Gugliotta, the Custodian of the Porziuncola.

The statement added that the Pope’s visit would be “a simple and private pilgrimage”.

Archbishop Rino Fisichella, the president of the Pontifical Council for New Evangelisation, said the the Pope will pray inside the Porziuncola to highlight the significance of the Pardon of Assisi during the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

The Pardon of Assisi is the possibility to receive a plenary indulgence during the first two days of August. The tradition started on August 1, 1216, when Christ, Our Lady and angels appeared to St Francis in the chapel of St Mary of the Angels.

As he lay on the ground, St Francis asked God to grant the indulgence to all pilgrims who visit the church. God granted this request and on the following day St Francis asked Pope Honorius III for his approval and he agreed.

The Feast of the Pardon of Assisi has since been celebrated between Vespers on August 1 and sundown on August 2. For many centuries, the indulgence could only be received by visiting St Mary of the Angels. However, it is now possible to receive the indulgence at all Franciscan churches and also at all the parish churches in Assisi.

Pope Francis previously visited Assisi in 2013 calling on the whole Church to imitate St Francis, embracing poverty and stripping itself of the “spirit of world”.