This afternoon, Pope Francis visited Piazza di Spagna, as part of celebrations for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. The Piazza was packed with people who welcomed the Pope saying ‘Viva il Papa!’
Following more than 50 years of tradition, in his official capacity as the Bishop of Rome, the Pope pays homage to the Virgin Mary by placing a bouquet at the base of the Column of the Immaculate Conception in the Piazza on 8th December each year.
The column and statue were originally erected with the help of 220 firemen, which is why the floral tributes always include a garland of flowers placed in the Virgin Mary’s arms by a member of Rome’s fire department.
The feast of the Immaculate Conception coincides this year with the opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. The Holy Father addressed this theme when he prayed to Our Lady, asking for her mercy on families, children, young people, the elderly, the sick, the imprisoned and migrants, after which the choir present sung the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary. After the ceremony, the Holy Father spoke to and blessed many of those gathered in the square.
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 far-away lands in search of peace and work.
There is space for everyone beneath your cloak,
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,
We 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, rancor 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.