By Devin Watkins
Continuing his enduring tradition, the Pope has taken time to entrust his upcoming Apostolic Journey to the protection of Our Lady.
According to the Holy See Press Office, he visited the Basilica of St. Mary Major on Friday evening around 7 PM to pray before the ancient icon of Maria Salus Populi Romani.
Pope Francis sat and prayed for a while, laying a bouquet of flowers on the altar beneath Our Lady’s icon.
The image of the “Salvation of the Roman people” is housed in the Basilica’s Borghese chapel.
Tradition holds that the icon arrived in Rome during the reign of Pope St. Gregory the Great, sometime around 590 AD.
At the end of his visit, the Pope returned to the Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican.
Devotion to Our Lady
The Pope is scheduled to depart for Budapest, Hungary, early Sunday morning, where he will celebrate the closing Mass for the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress.
Then, on Sunday afternoon, he will take a short flight to Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia.
That leg of the Pope’s Apostolic Journey will last until Wednesday.
One highlight of his trip to Slovakia is sure to be the celebration of Mass at the National Shrine of Šaštin, on the feast day of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows, Patroness of Slovakia.
According to Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, Pope Francis even extended his visit in order to preside over the Mass.
The Cardinal said the decision indicated the Pope’s interest in promoting devotion to Our Lady, and offers him an opportunity to thank the Blessed Virgin Mary for her protection during and after his recent surgery.
Pope Francis’ pilgrimage, said Cardinal Parolin, is a way of entrusting “to Her all those who find themselves in situations of fragility, of vulnerability, of suffering, including physical suffering, as he has been going through in this period, especially taking into account the situation brought on by the pandemic.”