Pope Francis visited the basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome this morning where he offered roses to Our Lady and prayed for her protection during his visit to the Holy Land which begins tomorrow.
“He spent 15 minutes in silent prayer in front of the Madonna,” Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told reporters, adding that there were many people in the basilica at the time, so it wasn’t a private visit.
“It wasn’t secret in any way,” Father Lombardi said. “He’s continuing this nice tradition of going to put his trips and great initiatives under the protection of the Madonna.”
Pope Francis leaves Rome for Amman, Jordan, tomorrow morning. He returns to the Vatican on Monday after brief visits to Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
The Holy Father has made several similar visits to the basilica during his pontificate:
1) March 14, 2013
In the aftermath of his election
2) May 4, 2013
Recitation of the Holy Rosary
3) May 30, 2013
Feast of Corpus Christi
4) July 20, 2013
Eve of trip to Brazil
5) July 29, 2013
Return from his trip to Brazil
6) December 8, 2013
After the Act of Veneration at the Spanish Steps
7) 1 January 2014
Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
8) May 23, 2014
Eve of pilgrimage to the Holy Land