Pope Francis commemorated the Feast of the Immaculate Conception by continuing a tradition of venerating a statue of the Blessed Mother in Rome.

The statue, located in the famed Piazza di Spagna, was consecrated in 1857, several years after the adoption of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Tens of thousands of faithful gathered for the celebration.

Prior to the recitation of a Marian prayer by the Holy Father, a reading from the book of Revelation was read, which describes the Virgin Mary as “a woman clothed with the sun with the moon beneath her feet and around her head a crown of twelve stars.”

“Holy and Immaculate Virgin, to You, the honor of our people and caring guardian of our city, we turn with confidence and love,” the Holy Father said beginning his prayer.

“Awaken in us all a renewed desire for holiness: in our word shine forth the splendor of truth, in our works resound the hymn of charity, in our body and in our hearts dwell purity and chastity, in our life may the beauty of the Gospel always be present.”

The Holy Father went on to pray that the Blessed Mother’s intercession allow us to be attentive to the poor, the sick, the children and every human life.

After concluding the celebration by visiting the sick, the Holy Father went to the Papal Basilica of St. Mary Major, his sixth visit since his election. Pope Francis prayed in silence in front of the image of Our Lady entitled “Salus Populi Romani” (Protectress of the Roman People). (J.A.E.)