Rome (AsiaNews) A prayer for Mary and mission to observe the 40th anniversary of the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council marked Benedict XVI's first visit to the Spanish Steps where he paid homage to the Immaculate to whom he brought the "concerns and hopes of today's humanity".
An oration to Mary that she may "intercede for us with Your Son so that all the families of peoples . . . including those who do not know their Saviour, may be happily reunited in peace and harmony and become one people of God.
The prayer included three requests to Mary, namely that She "help us keep in our hearts and meditate in silence the mysteries of the life of Christ"; that She "make us feel your closeness in every moment of our existence, especially in times of gloom and trial"; and that She "help us persevere in faithfully following Christ".
After arriving at 4 pm in this most beautiful of Roman squares already teaming with humanity, who, despite the rain, filled every space up to and including the steps of Trinità dei monti, Benedict XVI placed a basket of roses and spent a few minutes in silent prayer. Then, the special words dedicated to Marywith which Pope Paul VI brought to a close the Second Vatican Council on December 8, 1965rang out again.
Before, the Pope had stopped at the Santissima Trinità (Most Holy Trinity) Church on Via Condotti to visit the recently restored Virgin's Chapel and receive the homage of the Dominican fathers and the Via Condotti shopkeepers Association.
"On this day devoted to Mary," Benedict XVI said, "and after Paul VI's words were read out, I have come for the first time as Peter's successor to the foot of the statue of the Immaculate here in Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps) following the pilgrimage my predecessors so often performed."
"I feel the devotion and the affection of the entire Church, which is at home in this city of Rome and in the world. I bring with me the concerns and hopes of today's humanity, and I come to place them at the feet of the Celestial Mother of the Redeemer".
"On this rarest of days, that marks the 40th anniversary of the end of the Second Vatican Council, my thoughts go back to that December 8, 1965, when at the end of the homily of the Eucharistic celebration in St Peter's Square, the servant of God Paul VI turned to Our Lady, the "Mother of God and our own Spiritual Mother . . . the Being who reflects God's image in absolute and flawless clarity, unlike other ordinary human beings".
In that moment, the Pope asked whether "by looking straight at the humble Woman, our Sister and Celestial Mother and Queen, a bright and sacred mirror of infinite beauty, our post-Council task can begin".
"Can the beauty of Mary Immaculate not be our source of inspiration? A comforting hope?"
He answered by saying that "[w]e think so, for us and for you, and this is our highest greeting and, God willing, the most valuable!" (The Teachings of Paul VI).
Paul VI proclaimed Mary "Mother of the Church" and it was to Her that he entrusted the future application of the Council's decision."".
"Mindful of the many events that have marked the past 40 years, how can one not relive the different moments that left their mark on the path of the Church during this period? Our Lady has given her support during these four decades to Pastors, first of all to Peter's successors, in their demanding ministry at the service of the Gospel. She has guided the Church in faithfully understanding how to apply Council documents."
"Thus, as the voice of the whole ecclesial community, I want to thank the Most Holy Virgin and address Her with the same sentiments that moved the Council Fathers, who devoted to Her the last chapter in the dogmatic constitution Lumen gentium, in which they stressed the unbreakable relationship between the Virgin and the Church."
"Yes, we want to thank you, Virgin Mother of God and our most beloved Mother, for your intercession on behalf of the Church."
"You, who have unreservedly embraced God's Will, and devoted all Your energy to the person and deeds of Your Son, teach us how to keep in our hearts and meditate in silence the mysteries of the life of Christ."
"You, who approached Calvary, always deeply united to Your Son, who presented you as mother to the disciple John, make us feel your closeness in every moment of our existence, especially in times of gloom and trial."
"You, who along with the Apostles prayed on Pentecost pleading beseeching the gift of the Holy Spirit for the nascent Church, help us persevere in faithfully following Christ".
To you, we look fully trusting "as a sign of certain hope and consolation until the coming of the Day of the Lord" (n. 68).
"It is to You Mary, blessed in Heaven amongst the Angels and the Saints, that the faithful turn to invoke in insistent prayer that You may intercede for us with Your Son so that all the families of peoples, those who bear a Christian name as well as those who do not yet know their Saviour, may be happily reunited in peace and harmony and become one people of God, to the glory of the most holy and indivisible Trinity (n. 69). Amen!"
On his way back from the Spanish Steps, the Pope stopped at the Auditorium of Via della Conciliazione for a brief visit to see the exhibition on Vatican II, organised by Catholic Action. (FP)