12/08/2013, 00.00
VATICAN - ITALY
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Pope pays tribute to the Immaculate, calls for awareness of the poor, the sick and children

Francis visited Piazza di Spagna and Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica. For the occasion, he wrote a prayer, and was met by the protracted greeting of many sick people present.

Rome (AsiaNews) - In his prayer for the Immaculate, Pope Francis stressed our "desire for holiness", "the splendour of truth", "the song of love," "the beauty of the Gospel", "the cry of the poor", "the suffering of the sick" and the "loneliness of the elderly and the fragility of children".

For the recently elected pontiff, this is the first time he can pay tribute to the Immaculate in Rome's Piazza di Spagna, with tens of thousands of people lined up in the streets and on the steps of the Trinità dei monti.

The Pope arrived shortly before 4 pm on his usual car. He walked the last few metres up to the column on top of which stands a statue of the Virgin, where, as every year, firefighters had placed a garland of flowers.

Despite a few drops of rain, Francis walked over to the barriers to greet people, especially the many patients present, at the end of the ceremony. He greeted dozens of them, in person, walking almost the entire length of the square.

Francis laid a basket of white roses at the foot of the column (pictured), and then recited a prayer that he had composed for the occasion:

"Holy and Immaculate Virgin,
to you, who are the honour of our people
and the caring guardian of our city,
we turn with confidence and love.

You are All Beautiful, O Mary!
Sin is not in You.

Awake in all of us a renewed desire for holiness:

may the splendour of truth shine in our word,
may the song of charity resound in our works,
may purity and chastity dwell in our body and in our hearts,
may all the beauty of the Gospel be present in our lives.

You are All Beautiful, O Mary!
The Word of God became flesh in you.

Help us listen carefully to the voice of the Lord:

may the cry of the poor never leave us indifferent,
may the suffering of the sick and of those in need not find us forgetful,
may the loneliness of the elderly and the fragility of children move us,
may all of us love and venerate every human life.

You are All Beautiful, O Mary!
The full joy of the blessed life with God is in You.

Make sure that we do not neglect the meaning of our earthly journey:

may the gentle light of faith illuminate our days,
may the consoling strength of hope direct our steps,
may the contagious warmth of love encourage our hearts,
may the eyes of all of us remain firmly fixed there, on God, where true joy is.

You are All Beautiful, O Mary!

Hear our prayer, grant us our plea:

may the beauty of the merciful love of God in Jesus be in us,
may such divine beauty save us, our city, and the whole world.

Amen."

After the ceremony in Piazza di Spagna, Pope Francis continue his tribute to the Immaculate by visiting Santa Maria Maggiore. As pontiff, he had previously visited the first basilica dedicated to Mary on several occasions. The first visit was on 14 March, the day after his election. He also came on 4 May to recite the rosary and then on 20 July when he came "to ask the Virgin for her protection for the upcoming apostolic journey to Brazil, for the young people who will gather for World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro and for all young people in the world."

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