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  Opinion   Oped  02 Aug 2017  Mystic Mantra: The Pardon of Assisi

Mystic Mantra: The Pardon of Assisi

Father Dominic Emmanuel, a founder-member of the Parliament of Religions, can be contacted at
Published : Aug 2, 2017, 12:45 am IST
Updated : Aug 2, 2017, 1:36 am IST

The changed lives of individuals is a proof that pilgrimages do help, if, as John Paul says, “we are well disposed” for it.


The closing ceremony of 800 years of the “Pardon of Assisi”, is being observed between 2nd and 3rd August this year in Assisi (Italy). This tradition began in 1216, when Francis of Assisi pleaded with Pope Honorius III for a special dispensation to help people in their search for salvation. The Pardon of Assisi is also known as Portiuncula Indulgence.

Portiuncula or Little Door is actually a small chapel which Francis was told in a vision by Jesus to go and repair. It is there that Francis founded the Order of Franciscans. The Order later got split into other groups with different interpretations of the basic Rule of St Francis.

After having a profound spiritual experience of Jesus Christ, from 1207 onwards Francis had begun appealing to people to repent of their sinful ways. Thousands of people changed their lives after listening to his message. But they also wanted to be assured that their past was indeed forgotten and forgiven by God. Thus in July of 1216, Francis prayed at the Portiuncula asking Jesus for a general pardon for all those who come to pray in the chapel dedicated to Mother Mary. On August 2, 801 years ago, he announced this indulgence (Pardon) in the name of Jesus, approved by the then reigning Pope, to all the faithful gathered there.

This pious tradition going back eight centuries attracts thousands of pilgrims, young and old, every year to this “Little Door to Mercy”, that is always open to those who desire receiving it and use it to find their own path to holiness.

Last September while participating in an inter-religious programme in Assisi organised by the Community of St. Egidio, I walked to this chapel every morning and participated in the morning worship there. The intense experience I had there is indescribable. The celebration this year will be particularly solemn because it will coincide with the closure of its eighth centenary.

Last year after the opening of this celebration on August 4, Pope Francis himself made a private pilgrimage there. The former Pope and now a saint, John Paul II, once said that the message of the Portiuncula Indulgence is one of “pardon and reconciliation, that is, of grace, which divine goodness pours out on us if we are well disposed because God is truly rich in mercy”.

It is true that God’s mercy and love can be experienced in all places but when one takes the trouble to make a pilgrimage to a special place such as this, it shows an individual’s fervent resolve to move away from one’s indifferent ordinary living to a path of holiness.

The changed lives of individuals is a proof that pilgrimages do help, if, as John Paul says, “we are well disposed” for it.

Tags: jesus, jesus christ, pope francis, pardon of assisi