The intertwined arms with the cross in the background is the coat of arms of the Franciscan Orders founded by St. Francis of Assisi in the early thirteenth century.
The Cross represents the universality of salvation wrought by the redemptive sacrifice of Christ on the cross and his victory over evil. It is the symbol of self-emptying love of Jesus and his invitation to all his followers to walk in his footsteps carrying their daily cross, living the Gospel values, loving one another as he loves each person and proclaiming the message of peace and pardon.
The hands bearing wound marks: The bare arm with pierced hand represents the Crucified Christ, the other arm enclosed in the sleeve of the robe, represents Francis on whose hands, feet and side were mysteriously imprinted the wounds of Jesus on September 17, 1224 – two years before his death. Francis was the first Saint to receive the “stigmata” – the wound marks of the nails and lance sustained by Jesus during the crucifixion.
Francis who had striven to identify with Christ by a radical pursuit of the Gospel values in absolute “dis-possession”, self-denial and penance, gradually became conformed to the image of Christ so much so he was called “alter Christus” – a second Christ.
Peace and Well-Being! Pax et Bonum: Peace and all good wishes! Just as Christ instructed his disciples to greet a household with the greetings of peace, Francis saluted everyone with the prayer: “May the Lord give you peace! “ He was a messenger of peace and strove to reconcile estranged persons – be it feuding city-states, civic/ ecclesiastical authorities or married couples; his greetings of Pax et Bonum rang through the length and breadth of the European nations.
The Cloud: A sign of God’s glory. In the Old Testament the presence of Yahweh among the people was marked by a bright cloud. In this emblem the cloud stands for the glory of the Risen Christ who willingly obeyed his Father’s will to undergo the humiliating passion and death on the cross to redeem the sinful humankind. The cloud also represents the unity between heaven and earth.