By Devin Watkins
The Pope’s traditional visits to the Basilica of St. Mary Major act like bookends to his Apostolic Journeys.
He pops in for a moment one or two evenings before he leaves to ask Our Lady’s protection, and then zigzags across Rome for another stop on his way to the Vatican from the airport to thank her.
The same occurred on Wednesday afternoon as Pope Francis returned from Bratislava.
According to the Holy See Press Office, the Pope prayed for a while before the ancient icon of Maria Salus Populi Romani.
He also laid a bouquet of flowers on the altar at her feet in gratitude.
“After landing at Ciampino airport, Pope Francis stopped to pray at the Basilica of St. Mary Major, before the icon of the Mary Salus Populi Romani,” said a press statement. “Afterwards he returned to the Vatican.”
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, though its origins date back even further.