ROME — On a day dedicated to celebrating the Mother of God, Pope Francis made a special trip in Rome to pray before a traditional statue of Mary.
“Enkindle in all of us a renewed desire for holiness; may our words glow with the splendor of truth; may our works resound with the song of charity; may purity and chastity live in our bodies and in our hearts; may our lives express the presence of all the beauty of the Gospel,” he prayed on Dec. 8.
Pope Francis had crossed the city to Piazza di Spagna, where, on the top of a tall ancient Roman column, stands a statue of the Virgin Mary under the title of “Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception.”
On Dec. 8, the Church celebrates the solemn feast of Mary’s conception without sin. It is customary for the Pope to pay an annual visit to the image, which was originally dedicated in 1857. (In the U.S., the feast is transferred to Monday, Dec. 9, this year, although it is not a holy day of obligation.)
The Holy Father stood at the base of the column, which was surrounded by flowers. He bowed his head as a choir sang and asked for Mary’s intercession under her various titles.
“Help us to attentively listen to the voice of the Lord; let not the cry of the poor ever leave us indifferent. May the suffering of the sick and of those who are in need not find us inattentive. May the solitude of the elderly and the weakness of children move us; may every human life be loved and respected by all,” Francis said.
“Don’t let us forget the meaning of our earthly journey,” he added. “May the noble light of faith illumine our days, the consoling strength of hope orient our steps, the consoling warmth of love animate our heart; may our eyes always remain fixed there, in God, where there is true joy.”
After his prayers in Piazza di Spagna, Pope Francis traveled to the Basilica of St. Mary Major, which houses the Byzantine Marian icon Salus Populi Romani (Protectress of the Roman People”). The Pope has gone to pray before this image before and had it brought to St. Peter's Square in September during a prayer vigil for peace.