God's Poor Little Man of Assisi, Seraph of Assisi, Troubadour of Perfect Love, Brother Sun - these are some names given to St Francis of Assisi, one of the greatest saints in the history of the Church. Despite the fact that his life was short he managed to do great deeds, which have lasted up till now. They teach us, make us follow him and inspire us. The St Francis Basilica in Assisi is a special place; it symbolizes peace and dialogue, including the inter-religious dialogue. We still remember the Interfaith Prayer Meeting, which was held in Assisi in 1986 and gathered representatives of almost all world religions. They met at the tomb of St Francis who for that one moment united all believers, including the Muslims. The Poor Little Man of Assisi was a pioneer of the ecumenical dialogue with the world of Islam. In 1212 he set out for a Muslim country, Syria, for the first time. However, the winds enabled him to reach his destination and he shipwrecked on the coast of Dalmatia. For the second time he set out for Morocco in 1214 or 1215 but he was compelled to turn back to Italy once more. Four years later Francis came to the sultan in Egypt who received him with courtesy and listened to his testimony about Jesus Christ. The sultan even gave him a letter, which allowed him to travel freely in the Holy land. Up till now the Muslims have worshipped St Francis as an advocate of peace. Why? What was the recipe for success of the Poor Little Man of Assisi? We can find the answer in one of his numerous nicknames. He was also called 'Brother'. And he was a real Brother. He looked at the world and at every man through God's eyes.
He felt sorry for people. He was with those in need, with others, with neighbours. In order to show compassion one must realise that there are people around, not only us in the world, that people like us, those who feel, need and suffer, live next door. In order to show compassion one should be convinced that people around me are not strangers. They are like me, children of the same God, my sister, my brother - someone close to me. In order to show compassion, one should bother about people. And when we do, we should see their concerns and suffering. To see wounds and feel like they feel. This is unity, which we cannot find in the world of dramatic divisions. And we, Christians, are called to unity in a special way. We are one body. Let us remember Paul's words, 'Though there are many of us, we form a single body because we all have a share in this one loaf'. The words used in the Church 'brothers and sisters' do not mean 'brothers or sisters' and cannot be empty words. We find solid grounds for that. We are one, we are a community. As Christians we are called to show compassion. People around us are not strangers - they are all fellow-countrymen, very close to us. If we are not able to display compassion or if we once had this ability, now it is time to learn it again and show care so that we can say after Paul, 'If one part is hurt, all parts are hurt with it. If one part is given special honour, all parts enjoy it'. The Apostle of the Nations also said, 'You should carry each other's troubles and fulfil the law of Christ'. St Francis of Assisi understood these words very well.