One of the most important events in this Year of Faith, the Marian Day, will take place this weekend in the Vatican. More than 150,000 pilgrims are expected to attend the two-day event that will culminate with the consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The original statue of Our Lady of Fatima will be transported to Rome for this Year of Faith event.
A notable aspect of this event will be the participation of 10 Marian Shrines around the world during the recitation of the Rosary. They include the Marian Shrines of Aparecida, Brazil; Lujan, Argentina; Lourdes, France; Czestochowa, Poland; Banneux, Belgium; Nazareth, Israel; Nairobi, Kenya; Akita, Japan; Vailankanny, India; and Washington, D.C.
Msgr. Walter Rossi, rector of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., spoke with ZENIT on the significance of this event as a catalyst for peace in the world today.
ZENIT: How many pilgrims visit the Basilica every year? Are you expecting a big turnout for the “Marian Day?”
Msgr. Rossi: Almost a million pilgrims visit the Basilica every year. Tomorrow we also have a diocesan pilgrimage from the Diocese of Arlington that will be here in the morning and then the international rosary in the afternoon. And of course, each day at the shrine, every day of the year, we have six Masses plus Eucharistic adoration.
ZENIT: Why do you think this act of consecrating the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary is so significant?
Msgr. Rossi: First of all, the consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary goes back to the time of Pope Pius XII, who had consecrated Russia to Mary’s Immaculate Heart. Then both Pope Paul VI and Blessed John Paul II reconsecrated Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and then in 1982 Blessed John Paul II consecrated the entire world to Mary’s Immaculate Heart.
As we all know, the world is not at peace. And one of the principal reasons for the consecration was not only for the conversion of Russia but also for world peace. So this consecration is really timely because right now we need the intercession of Our Lady. We need prayers to change minds and hearts to help bring about the peace the world so desperately needs.
ZENIT: We saw the power of prayer after the Pope’s worldwide call for prayer for Syria. Do you think this consecration to Mary will have a similar impact?
Msgr. Rossi: Prayer is extremely powerful. With prayer all things are possible. As we gather together to offer this prayer in consecrating the world to Mary’s Immaculate Heart, it is our great hope and desire that it will have the same effects as the prayer for Syria did; that the world will in fact reach and achieve some peace and tranquility.
ZENIT: What events will be held in the Basilica for the “Marian Day”?
Msgr. Rossi: It’s a full day because we have a diocesan pilgrimage in the morning, and then the rosary from 1:30 pm to 4 pm and then the 5 o’clock Mass. And like I said earlier we also have an additional 6 masses, and we have the daily rosary and Eucharistic Adoration.
Each of these events will be focused toward Mary’s Immaculate Heart, seeking her intercession, asking Our Lady to embrace Her children so that they will not only come to a more intimate communion with Jesus, but also to bring peace to our troubled world as well as peace and healing to those lives that might be broken, struggling or suffering.
ZENIT: The patroness of the United States is the Immaculate Conception, correct?
Msgr. Rossi: Yes, and that’s why the National Shrine is the Catholic church of the United States. When the Bishops at the Council of Baltimore had placed the country under Mary’s patronage, it was decided that there should be a national monument in Her honor to celebrate the Immaculate Conception and her patronage.
ZENIT: Is there a great devotion to the Blessed Mother in the United States?
Msgr. Rossi: Absolutely. The National Shrine is one of the largest churches in the world and it is the largest Catholic church in the United States. For us, we are a center of Marian devotion for the country, and since we are not a parish church everyone who comes to the Shrine, whether a tourist, a pilgrim or a worshipper, comes because they are there to seek Our Lady’s intercession.
You see very clearly that people have a great devotion to Our Lady. That Our Lady’s intercession for them is not only essential but its also very powerful. When you have a million people coming through your door every year, that’s a great testimony to people’s faith and devotion to Our Lady.
ZENIT: We’ve seen, since his election, that the Holy Father is a very Marian-centered Pope. What are your thoughts on Pope Francis?
Msgr. Rossi: Well, I think not only is Pope Francis Marian-centered, but we also know that he is, by the choice of his name, Franciscan-centered. I personally believe that Pope Francis is bringing about or seeking to bring about a new Pentecost in the Church. He’s calling us back to the foundation of the Gospel message. He’s calling us to live as Jesus taught and, as He says, to ‘go along the path that is Jesus’ and that following this path, hopefully will lead not only to holiness in our own individual lives but also holiness in the life of the Church.
ZENIT: What hopes do you have for this Marian Day?
Msgr. Rossi: My hope is that through our prayer, Our Lady will embrace all of Her children, that she will lead us to a more intimate relationship with Jesus and bring peace, bring peace to the world and bring peace to people’s lives.