Rome (AsiaNews) - As he stood in front of the column and the statue of the Immaculate Virgin in Piazza di Spagna, Pope Francis addressed some intentions to Our Lady, calling on Mary to protect families, Rome and the whole world, "free humanity from all spiritual and material slavery, [. . .] make God's plan of salvation win in hearts and in events," make us "undress, lower ourselves, give ourselves, listen, remain silent, decentre from ourselves," and "make room for the beauty of God, the source of true joy."
The pontiff arrived in Rome's poshest shopping district around 4.30 pm on an economy car, as tens of thousands of people waited behind barriers. The simple ceremony was punctuated by chants and litanies. Before his prayer, which we publish in full below, the pope laid a basket of white roses at the base of the column on which the statue of the Virgin stands. After the blessing, Francis spent some time greeting, one by one, a group of sick people and children present at the event.
Before coming to Piazza di Spain, the pope visited the Basilica of Saint Mary Major to pray before the icon Salus Populi Romani ("salvation of the Roman people"). The Argentine pontiff is very devoted to this icon, and in the 21 months of his pontificate, he has already prayed at the Marian basilica at least 16 times, most often before and after his international travels.
Here is the prayer the pontiff recited:
O Mary, our Mother,
today the people of God in celebration
worships you immaculate,
always preserved from the contagion of sin. Accept the gift I offer
on behalf of the Church that is in Rome
and throughout the whole world.
The knowledge that You, who
are our Mother, are totally free from sin
gives us great comfort.
The knowledge that evil has no
power over you
fills us with hope and fortitude
in the daily struggle that we must perform against the threats of the evil one.
But in this struggle we are
not alone, we are not orphans,
because Jesus, before dying on the cross,
gave you to us as Mother.
Therefore, even though we are
sinners, we are your children, children of the Immaculate,
called to the holiness that shines in you
by the grace of God, from the beginning.
Moved by this hope,
today we invoke your maternal protection for us, our families,
this city, and the whole world.
May the power of God's love,
that preserved you from original sin,
by your intercession free humanity from all spiritual and material slavery,
and may it make God's plan of salvation win in hearts and in events.
Make sure that even in us, your
children, grace prevail over pride
and that we may become merciful
as our heavenly Father is merciful.
At this time that leads us
to the feast of the Nativity of Jesus,
teach us to go against the tide:
to undress, lower ourselves, give ourselves, listen, remain silent,
to decentre from ourselves,
to make room for the beauty of God, the source of true joy.
O our Mother Immaculate, pray for us!