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Bishops take pilgrimage to Assisi

Australia's Bishops have taken a pilgrimage to Assisi where Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide presided at a special Mass before the tomb of St Francis.

In his homily he spoke of the bishop's role in the story of St Francis' conversion from nobleman to a life of poverty and holiness.

He said that when Francis threw off his clothes and stood naked in the town square preparing to follow the way of the poor, the bishop stepped forward and placed his cloak around him "to protect his human dignity".

Archbishop Wilson said the role of a bishop today remains one of protection and love and care for his people.

Before heading back to Rome the bishops, who are half way through their ad limina visit, had time to pray before the tomb of St Clare of Assisi as well as visit other significant sites, including the church of San Damiano.

The bishops have also celebrated Mass at Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica in Rome with a small congregation of Australians.

Archbishop Barry Hickey of Perth presided and said it was consoling to know that the bishops were being supported by the prayers of the Australian people as they made their ad limina visit.

The Bishops concluded the weekend with a retreat day at Castelgandolfo, the Pope's summer residence. They will resume their meetings with Vatican congregations this week.

Bishops take pilgrimage to Assisi (Australian Catholic Bishops Conference 21/3/04)

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22 Mar 2004