Vatican City, 8 December 2015 (VIS) – Today, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the Holy Father went to Piazza di Spagna where he performed the traditional act of veneration below the statue of Mary Immaculate crowning the Roman marble column commemorating the proclamation of the dogma by Pope Pius IX on 8 December 1854.
Continuing a tradition established by St. John XXIII in 1958, Francis left a floral tribute at the foot of the column and, accompanied by thousands of faithful led by Cardinal Agostino Vallini, vicar of His Holiness for the diocese of Rome, recited a prayer to the Virgin that he had composed himself, the full text of which is published below:
“Virgin Mother, on this day, the feast of your Immaculate Conception, I pay homage to you in faith and love on behalf of God’s holy people who live in this city and diocese. I come before you in the name of families, with their joys and troubles; on behalf of children and young people, exposed to life’s challenges; on behalf of the elderly, laden with age and years of experience. I come especially on behalf of the sick, the imprisoned, and those who struggle. As a leader I also come here for the sake of all those who have come from faraway lands in search of peace and work”.
There is space for everyone beneath your mantel, because you are the Mother of Mercy. Your heart is full of tenderness towards all your children: the tenderness of God, who, by you, became incarnate and became our brother, Jesus, Saviour of every man and every woman. Looking at you, Our Immaculate Mother, ee see the victory of divine mercy over sin and all its consequences; and hope for a better life is reignited within us, free from slavery, rancour and fear.
Here, today, in the heart of Rome, we hear your motherly voice calling all of us to walk towards that door, which represents Christ. You say to everyone: “Come, come closer, faithful ones; enter and receive the gift of mercy; do not be afraid, do not be ashamed: the Father awaits you with open arms. He will forgive and welcome you into his house. Come, all those in search of peace and joy”.
“We thank you, Immaculate Mother, because you do not make us walk along this path alone; you guide us, you are near us and help us through every difficulty. May God bless you, now and forever. Amen”.
After his homage to the statue of Mary Immaculate, the Pope greeted those present and, as his final act on the first day of the Holy Year of Mercy, he transferred to the Basilica of St. Mary Major to pray before the image of Mary “Salus Populi Romani”, where he was awaited by a large crowd. As he left for the Vatican, the bells of the Basilica, whose Holy Door he will open on 1 January 2016, rang in celebration.