For the first time since the pandemic, Pope Francis was able to keep with papal tradition and visit the statue of the Immaculate Conception at Plaza di Spagna on this December 8 feast.
Under a bright evening sky, the Pope was welcomed by a large crowd. He was able to climb out of his car without assistance, and took halting steps to a chair. The Litany of the Saints was sung. Traditionally, the Pope places a bouquet of white roses at the base of the column and prays for Mary’s intercession to help all people in their suffering and struggles.
For the last couple years, the Pope has made this traditional visit early in the morning and in private, so as to prevent that a crowd would gather.
May we continue to believe
The Holy Father offered a brief prayer, entrusting the needs of the world to Our Lady. When he spoke of the suffering Ukrainian people, he was overcome with emotion, stopping to weep for several seconds, as the crowd applauded.
Immaculate Virgin, I would have liked today
To bring you the thanksgiving of the Ukrainian people,
for the peace we have long been asking the Lord for.
Instead, I have yet to present you with the supplication
of the children, of the elderly,
of the fathers and mothers, of the young people
of that tormented land, which suffers so much.
But in reality we all know
that you are with them and with all the suffering,
just as you were beside the cross of your Son.
The Pope prayed, “looking to you who are without sin,” with the hope that we might “continue to believe and hope that love might conquer hatred, that truth might conquer lies, that pardon might conquer offenses, that peace might conquer war!”
Pope Francis has said that he’s kept well informed about the situation in Ukraine, and particularly about the “cruelty” that the Ukrainians are suffering.
“I speak about the cruelty because I have much information about the cruelty of the troops that come in,” the Pope said to America magazine.
Vatican News this week reported on a delegation of journalists who have traveled to Ukraine. Speaking with Bishop Jan Sobiło, auxiliary of Kharkiv, he recounted how he tried to comfort a “desperate” grandfather whose granddaughter was raped and killed.
In October, the Independent Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine presented its first report to the UN General Assembly, indicating there are “grounds to conclude that an array of war crimes, violations of human rights and international humanitarian law have been committed in the country.”
On his way to the Column of the Immaculate Conception today, the Holy Father prayed silently before the icon Salus Populi Romani in the Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome.