ROME, DEC. 8, 2006 (Zenit.org).- On the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Benedict XVI figuratively placed in Mary’s hands the marginalized and defenseless members of society.
During his visit today to the image of the Immaculate Conception in Rome’s Piazza de Spagna, the Pope prayed: “Show yourself a mother especially to the neediest: the defenseless, the marginalized, and the excluded, the victims of a society that often sacrifices man for other ends and interests.”
The Pontiff also prayed that humanity would have “the courage to say ‘no’ to the deceptions of power, money, pleasure: to dishonest earnings, to corruption and hypocrisy, to egoism and violence.”
The Holy Father continued: “‘No’ to the evil one, deceitful prince of the world. ‘Yes’ to Christ, who destroys the power of evil with the omnipotence of love. We know that only hearts converted to love, which is God, can build a better future for all.”
Benedict XVI prayed to the Virgin Mary to watch over the citizens of Rome, to be a “vigilant guardian of Italy and Europe, so that from the ancient Christian roots people will be able to draw the sap to build their present and future.”
“Show yourself a provident and merciful mother to the whole world so that, respecting human dignity and rejecting every form of violence and exploitation, firm foundations will be laid for the civilization of love,” the Pope prayed.
The Holy Father arrived to the Piazza di Spagna in a convertible automobile. He was standing as he greeted thousands who had lined the streets on this public holiday.
This image of the virgin was blessed by Pope Pius IX on Dec. 8, 1857, three years after the dogmatic definition of Mary’s Immaculate Conception.
Since then, a floral homage has been held in the Piazza di Spagna, though it was interrupted during the years the Popes were obliged to stay inside the Vatican, from 1870 to 1929.
In the morning, Rome’s firemen placed a wreath of white roses on the right arm of the image.
Benedict XVI also visited, as is customary on this day, the Basilica of St. Mary Major.