Franciscans celebrate 800th anniversary

 Nearly 2,000 Franciscans from all over the world are gathering in Assisi today, to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the founding of their order. The chapter falls on the 800th anniversary of the formal founding of the Franciscan order when St Francis presented his rule to Pope Innocent III for approval in 1209.

Representatives from the four main Franciscan branches: the Order of Friars Minor, the Capuchins, the Conventual Franciscans and the Third Order Regular Franciscans will be taking part in the International 'Chapter of Mats' from April 15-18.

Fr Jose Rodriguez Carballo told Vatican Radio, a Chapter of Mats gets its name from the time in 1221 when St Francis called more than 3,000 friars to the Portiuncula chapel in Assisi for a general meeting or chapter. Because the small town could not accommodate the large number of visitors, the friars lived in huts made out of reeds and slept on mats.

Fr Rodriguez said organisers hope it will be an occasion for "coming together as a family, offering the Church and the world our witness of brotherhood and celebrating our beginnings."

On April 18, the men and women religious will have a special audience with Pope Benedict at Castel Gandolfo, he said.

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