Shrine of Mentorella Marks 1,500th Anniversary

Pope Sends Cardinal Re as His Envoy

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ROME, AUG. 22, 2010 ( Benedict XVI named Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, retired prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, as his special envoy to the Aug. 29 celebration of the 1,500th anniversary of the Marian shrine at Mentorella.

The Shrine of Holy Mary of the Graces, which is situated about 30 miles from Rome, is on what is believed to be the site of the conversion of St. Eustachius (also known as Eustace). Prior to becoming a Christian, Eustachius was a centurion in the Roman army under the Emperor Trajan and had the name Placidus.

Taking the name Eustachius after his baptism, he was eventually sent to his death, along with his family by the emperor Hadrian for having refused to participate in a rite of thanksgiving in the temple of Apollo following a victory over the barbarians.

In the fourth century, the Emperor Constantine had the first church built at this location, dedicating it to the holy martyr. St. Benedict lived for 2 years in a cave near the church, and for several centuries Mentorella was the site of a Benedictine monastery.

The shrine was rediscovered in the 17th century by the Jesuit Father Athanasius Kircher, after it had stood abandoned for many years. In 1857, Pope Pius IX entrusted it to the care of the fathers of the Congregation of the Resurrection

In the letter sent to the cardinal, which was published Saturday by the Vatican press office, Benedict XVI recalls his visit to the shrine at the beginning of his pontificate on Oct. 29, 2005, following in the footsteps of John Paul II.  The Polish Pope, on his first official trip outside Rome, chose to travel in pilgrimage to the shrine, where he returned often on private visits.


The celebration of the shrine’s 1,500th anniversary will be preceded by a triduum of preparation.

On Aug. 28, Father Wieslaw Spiewak, provincial superior of the Polish province of the Congregation of the Resurrection, will lead the rosary and preside at Mass at the shrine. The celebration will be broadcast by Radio Maria.

Cardinal Re will preside at Holy Mass at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 29, accompanied by the choir of the Diocese of Rome, and will bless an image of Our Lady of Mentorella that will be circulated among the parishes of the Diocese of Tivoli.

The choir, under the direction of Monsignor Marco Frisina, will perform the oratorio “Totus Tuus” later in the afternoon at 4 p.m.

The festivities will conclude at 6 p.m. with a second Mass presided over by Bishop Mauro Parmeggiani of Tivoli.

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