Rome (AsiaNews) – Tens of thousands of people joined Benedict XVI today in paying tribute to the statue of Our Lady at the top of the Column of the Immacolata in Rome’s Piazza di Spagna. The annual event, one of the simplest but also most heart-felt gestures in Rome, takes place in one of the beautiful and exclusive corners of the Italian capital, in a district known for its Christmas shopping, and in the square home to the Propaganda Fide Palace.
Benedict XVI arrived in Piazza di Spagna around 4 pm (CES Time) and after an introductory prayer he offered a basket with a hundred pink roses that was placed at the foot of the tall column on which rests the bronze statue of the Virgin Mary.
After a few chants and some thoughts taken from the texts of the Second Vatican Council the Pope read his tribute to Our Lady, which we publish here in full:
O Mary, Immaculate Virgin,
again this year we find ourselves with filial love at the foot of your image in order to renew the tribute of the Christian community and the city of Rome.
Here we pause in prayer, following the tradition inaugurated by previous popes, in the solemn day in which the liturgy celebrates your Immaculate Conception, mystery that is a source of joy and hope for all the redeemed. We greet You and call upon You using the words of the Angel, “Full of Grace” (Lk 1, 28), the most beautiful name with which God Himself called You since eternity.
“Full of Grace”, you are, Mary, filled with divine love from the first moment of Your existence, providentially predestined to be the Mother of the Redeemer and intimately associated with Him in the mystery of Salvation. In Your Immaculate Conception glows the vocation of the disciples of Christ, with His grace called to be holy and without blemish before him in love (cf Eph 1, 4). In You the dignity of every human being, who is precious in the eyes of the Creator, shines. Whoever looks at you O All Holy Mother does not lose serenity however harsh the trials of their life may be. Even though the experience of sin is sad, sullying the dignity of God’s children, whosoever turns to You rediscovers the beauty of truth and love, and finds again the path that leads to the house of the Father.
“Full of Grace”, you are, Mary, who in welcoming with Your “Yes” the Creator’s plans, opened the door of salvation to us. At Your school teach us to pronounce our “Yes” to the will of the Lord. A “Yes” that joins Yours, unreservedly and without any shadow, which the Lord willed to need in order to generate the New Man, the Christ, the one and only Saviour of the World and History. Give us the courage to say “No” to the illusions of power, money, pleasure, ill-gotten gain, corruption, hypocrisy, selfishness and violence; “No” to the evil one, the prince who deceives this world; “Yes” to Christ who destroys the power of evil with all-mighty love. We know that only the hearts converted by Love, which is God, can build a better future for all.
“Full of Grace”, you are, Mary! Your name is a token of certain hope for all generations. Yes! Because, as the great poet Dante wrote, “thou to us, [. . .] mortal men [art] of hope a living spring” (Par., XXXIII, 12). At this source, at the spring of Your Immaculate Heart, we come once more as trusting pilgrims to draw faith and consolation, joy and love, security and peace.
Virgin “full of grace”, show Yourself as a tender and devoted Mother for the people of this city, so that a authentically evangelical spirit may encourage and direct their deeds; show Yourself a Mother and watchful guardian for Italy and Europe, so that the nations may know how to draw new life from their ancient Christian roots to build their present and their future; show Yourself as a providing and merciful Mother for the whole world so that solid bases for a civilisation of love may be laid respecting human dignity and rejecting all forms of violence and exploitation.
Show Yourself Mother especially for those who need it most: the defenceless, the marginalised and the excluded, the victims of a society that too often sacrifices man to other purposes and interests.
Show Yourself Mother of all, O Mary, and give us Christ, the hope of the world! “Monstra Te esse Matrem”, O Immaculate Virgin, full of grace! Amen!