Vatican City, 11 May 2015 (VIS) – Today in the shrine of Our Lady of Mercy of Savona, Italy, the coronation of the statue of the Virgin Mary by Pope Pius VII on 10 May 1815 will be celebrated. Pope Francis has therefore sent as letter to Bishop Vittorio Lupi of the diocese of Savona-Noli, in which he recalls that Benedict XVI too was a pilgrim to the shrine, erected almost five centuries ago in the place where the Virgin appeared to the peasant Antonio Botta, asking for penance and conversion, and bidding him farewell with the words “Mercy, not justice”. “An exhortation that is more valid than ever in our age”, he writes, “which is, in particular, a time for mercy”.
“In such a dramatic moment in the history of Europe”, he continues, “Pope Pius VII, kidnapped by Napoleon and imprisoned in Savona, was able to go to the Shrine of Our Lady of Mercy and he vowed that, once freed, he would return there to crown her; this took place on 10 May 1815, and on 24 May he instituted the feast of Mary Most Holy, Help of Christians. Indeed, the Mother of Mercy is always close and helps all her children when they find themselves in danger, or, as is often the case in our times, they suffer discrimination and persecution. I hope that, as we draw closer to the Extraordinary Holy Year, all the Church may deepen and spread her trust in the Mother of Mercy, who in this land gave a perennial sign of her tenderness and her closeness to the pilgrm People of God in this world”.