Standing at the foot of a Marian statue, Pope Francis prayed Mary would help Christians develop the “antibodies” needed to fight the modern diseases of indifference, hypocrisy and fear of foreigners.
Celebrating the 8th December feast of the Immaculate Conception, the pope recited the Angelus prayer at noon with visitors in St Peter’s Square, visited the Rome Basilica of St Mary Major, laid a basket of white roses at the foot of the Marian statue near the Spanish Steps, then visited the Church of St Andrew where, in 1842, Mary appeared to Alphonse Ratisbonne, a young Jewish man. He converted to Catholicism and founded the Congregation of Our Lady of Sion.
In his prayer near the Spanish Steps in the heart of Rome, Pope Francis thanked Mary for watching over him and over the people of Rome, especially “the sick, the aged, all the poor, the many people who have immigrated here from lands of war and hunger.”
He prayed that Mary would help people “develop antibodies against some of the viruses of our times: the indifference that says, ‘It’s not my problem’; civic rudeness which ignores the common good; the fear of what is different and of the foreigner.”
A firefighter places a wreath of flowers on a statue of Mary overlooking the Spanish Steps in Rome on 8th December, the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Pope Francis was to honour Mary later in the day by attending a service at the statue. (CNS photo/Paul Haring).