Pope Benedict recently made a pastoral visit to the diocese of Arrezo, Tuscany, in Italy. Because of the weather, he was unable to make his intended visit to La Verna, the Franciscan sanctuary where St Francis received the sacred stigmata as he contemplated Christ Crucified.

In the reflection that he intended to give the Pope called on Franciscans to allow ourselves to be ‘captured by the love of Christ’ and to ‘carry his love’ to all.

‘Captured by the love of Christ! One does not climb La Verna without being led by the prayer of St Francis of the Absorbeat, which recites: “May the power of your love, O Lord, ardent and sweet power, so absorb our hearts as to withdraw them from all that is under heaven. Grant that we may be ready to die for love of your love, as you died for love of my love”. Contemplation of the Crucifix is a labour of the mind, but it cannot rise freely without the support, without the power of love.

Carry the love of Christ! Many pilgrims have climbed and still climb this Holy Mountain to contemplate the Love of God Crucified and to let themselves be seized by him. Ever so many pilgrims have climbed in search of God, which is the true reason for which the Church exists: to build a bridge between God and mankind. Here they meet you too, sons and daughters of St Francis. Always remember that the consecrated life has the specific duty to witness, by word and by the example of a life according to the evangelical counsels, the fascinating love story between God and humanity, which runs through history.

I have become a pilgrim to La Verna, as the Successor of Peter, and I would like every one of us to listen to Jesus’ question to Peter again: “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?… Feed my lambs” (Jn 21:15). It is love for Christ which is at the base of the Pastor’s life, as it is for the consecrated: a love which does not fear commitment or work.

Carry this love to the people of our time, so often closed in their own individualism; be a sign of God’s immense mercy.’

Read the Holy Father’s full message