ASSISI, Italy — Becoming an honorary citizen of Assisi, Israeli President Shimon Peres said the town’s most famous son, St. Francis, has important lessons to teach all people of good will.
St. Francis of Assisi called people “to love the faith and the poor, to pursue the value of peace and to respect nature. These precepts are of fundamental importance today just as they were in 1208,” when the saint founded the Franciscan order, Peres said May 1 during the ceremony in Assisi.
The Israeli president told an audience of townspeople, Franciscan friars and media that he had traveled to Italy specifically to meet Pope Francis and to invite him “to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.”
“In a very short time, the pope has been able to earn the admiration and respect of the whole world,” Peres said. “His genuine modesty, his love for peace, his attention to the poor, his respect for justice and his call for dialogue among religions are like a breath of fresh air.”
Peres said religious leaders have an important role to play in building peace, particularly by putting an end to violence and poverty.
As he told Pope Francis during their meeting April 30, Peres told the gathering in Assisi that ending hunger and illiteracy in the Middle East, particularly by helping the region’s poorest children, “we will save our future.”
St. Francis, he said, “dedicated his life to fighting poverty, seeking peace and embracing the value of humility. And he was right.”
While the world has changed greatly, he said, people must maintain their moral principles, “now more than ever,” and learn the values of simplicity and service that St. Francis embodied.