On the eve of his 32nd apostolic journey to Asia, Pope Francis went this Tuesday morning to the Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome to pray before the image of Our Lady Salus Populi Romani. Pope Francis has visited the Basilica many times. The first time was the day after his election as Pope, on March 14, 2013. As has become customary, the Pope visits St. Mary Major before and after his trips abroad.
Homage to Our Lady
Each time he visits, the Pope lays a bouquet of flowers and prays in front of the image of Salus populi romani (Salvation of the Roman people), inside the Borghese chapel in the basilica. In the image of the Virgin Mary with the Child in her arms, the Pope sees the faith of God's people who for centuries have clung to the Virgin Mary in times of need, and to implore a sign of grace from heaven, because "what is impossible for men is not impossible for God.”
The image of the Salus populi Romani dear to the Popes and the Jesuits
The sacred image has always been dear to the Jesuits (Saint Ignatius celebrated his first Mass in St Mary Major) Pius XII paid her homage when he proclaimed the dogma of the Assumption in 1950. The image was displayed at Tor Vergata, in August 2000, on the occasion of World Youth Day and on that occasion Pope John Paul II wanted to entrust it to the young people together with the cross "so that it remains visibly evident that Mary is a most powerful Mother who leads us to Christ". It was John Paul II himself, from the beginning of his pontificate, who wanted a lamp to burn day and night under the image of Salus, as a witness to his great devotion to Our Lady.