Pope Francis cross the city of Rome on December 8, honoring a papal tradition by laying a floral wreath at the foot of a statue dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, near the Spanish Steps.
Celebrating the feast of the Immaculate Conception, the Pope walked down the Via dei Condotti, through the glittering Christmas decorations of the city’s shopping district, and mingled with members of the crowd gathered on the Spanish Steps.
After laying the floral wreath, and reciting a prayer he had composed asking for Mary’s intercession, the Pope returned to the Vatican by way of the basilica of St. Mary Major, where he stopped to pray before the image of the Virgin, Salus Populi Romani–the same Marian image that he had visited on the day after his papal election.
During his Angelus audience on the same day, the Pope told a crowd in St. Peter’s Square: “The Immaculate Conception is inscribed in God’s design.” He explained that the “fracture in the communion” between man and god “was healed in advance” in the case of the Mother of God. The Virgin Mary, he said, shows the faithful “our truest destiny, our deepest vocation: to be loved, to be transformed by love, to be transformed by the beauty of God.”
The Pope urged the faithful to learn from Mary especially in preparation for the celebration of Christ’s birth, “because she teaches us how to experience the time of Advent, awaiting the Lord.”