Pope Francis pays homage to the Immaculate Conception at rain swept Spanish Steps

The traditional public prayer in front of the statue was cancelled due to the Covid-19 measures in place. Traditionalist sectors of the Church denounce the "minimization" of the dogma. The Pope also celebrated Mass in St Mary Major in the chapel of the Nativity.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - This morning at 7 am, as the rain and wind raged over Rome, Pope Francis travelled to the Spanish Steps where a column stands crowned by a statue of the Immaculate Conception.

As the director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, recounts, the pontiff made “an act of private veneration of Mary Immaculate. At the first light of dawn, in the rain, he placed a bouquet of white roses at the foot of the column where the statue of the Virgin is located and turned to her in prayer, so that she may watch with love over Rome and its inhabitants, entrusting all those who in this city and in the world are afflicted by illness and discouragement to her”.

The homage to the Immaculate Conception in the Spanish Steps is a long-held tradition maintained by the Popes. It is usually held in the afternoon and is attended by thousands of people including residents, tourists and traders of the area. This year, due to the pandemic and the rules of social distancing, the Press Office had long ago announced that the public gesture would not take place, but in its place the Pope would have made a "private" gesture of devotion to Mary.

This decision has sparked the criticism of some traditionalist sectors that see it as a "minimization" of Mary in Catholic dogma.

The press release from the Holy See press office continues: "Just before 7.15 am Pope Francis left Spanish Steps travelling to St Mary Major where he celebrated Mass in the Chapel of the Nativity. He then returned to the Vatican".