Pope Francis will have St. Francis of Assisi on his mind when he visits Abu Dhabi Feb. 3-5 and Morocco in late March.
As he told ambassadors to the Holy See early in January, “These represent two important opportunities to advance interreligious dialogue and mutual understanding between the followers of both religions (Christianity and Islam) in this year that marks the 800th anniversary of the historic meeting between St. Francis of Assisi and Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil” of Egypt.
The anniversary has a special meaning in the United Arab Emirates, which along with Oman and Yemen, are served by the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia, a church jurisdiction entrusted to the Capuchin Franciscans.
Pope Francis’ highly anticipated encyclical letter on environmental issues is reportedly to be given the title “Laudato Sii,” a quotation from a popular prayer of St. Francis of Assisi praising God for the creation of the different creatures and aspects of the Earth.
The phrase “Laudato Sii” reoccurs several times in St. Francis’ Canticle of the Sun, a prayer that praises God first by thanking God for such creations as “Brother Fire” and “Sister Water.”
Written around the year 1224, the prayer is also recognized as one of the first published works of literature in the Umbrian dialect of the then-developing Italian language as opposed to Latin.
“Be praised, my Lord, through all Your creatures, especially through my lord Brother Sun,” St. Francis wrote in the third stanza of the prayer. He then continued, expressing praise to God for “Sister Moon,” “Brothers Wind and Air,” “Sister Water,” “Brother Fire, and “Mother Earth.”