Pope Francis praying at St. Mary Major Pope Francis praying at St. Mary Major  (Vatican Media)

Pope thanks Blessed Mother for Apostolic Journey to Bahrain

As per tradition, Pope Francis, upon his return to Rome, makes detour to the Marian Basilica of St. Mary Major to thank the Blessed Virgin Mary for her maternal protection of his Apostolic Journey to the Kingdom of Bahrain.

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Pope Francis has thanked the Blessed Mother for his Apostolic Visit to the Kingdom of Bahrain.

Keeping with tradition, the Pope visited the Rome's Marian Basilica of St. Mary Major upon returning to Rome on Sunday from his Apostolic Journey to visit Our Lady and gave thanks for her maternal protection.

According to the Holy See Press Office, the Pope stayed some moments in prayer at the feet of the ancient Roman icon of Maria Salus Populi Romani ('Salvation of the Roman Peoples') to express his gratitude to Mary for the fruitful days abroad.

A momentous journey

Pope Francis landed in Rome on Sunday afternoon from his just-concluded 39th Apostolic Journey abroad, which marked his second to the Middle-Eastern Gulf region, and the 58th country he has visited as Pope.

The Gulf Air Boeing 787 aircraft carrying the Pope, his entourage and the journalists accompanying him arrived in the Italian capital after the four-day Journey to the Muslim-majority island nation, which the Pope visited to participate in The Bahrain Forum for Dialogue and to bring his closeness to the country's small and diverse Catholic flock.

The Holy Father gave great encouragement to the country's local Church, including celebrating Mass for some 30,000 faithful from 111 countries, where he spoke of love, and stressed that the spiral of violence plaguing the world can end by always loving everyone.

The Mass marked the second Mass ever celebrated by a Pope in the Gulf region, the first being that which Pope Francis celebrated in Abu Dhabi in 2019.

The Holy Father invited young people to live their faith and draw near to Christ, and exhorted the clergy and religious serving there to preserve their God-given joy, spread it everywhere, and remember that with God, they can face and overcome anything.

At the Bahrain Dialogue Forum, Pope Francis called on fellow religious leaders to recognize their immense responsibility, and 'duty,' to help a suffering humanity, especially through promoting peace and condemning those who use the name of God to perpetrate violence.

Beyond addressing all the religious leaders at the Forum, the Pope also met specifically with the Grand Imam of Al Azhar,  Ahmed Al-Tayyeb, and the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I.

With the backdrop of war and suffering, and grave injustices across the globe, the Pope made strong appeals for peace, especially in Ukraine, Ethiopia and in Yemen, to end rearmament, and for human rights, especially for religious freedom, the recognition of the rights and dignity of women, children and citizenship.

The tradition continues

The Holy Father customarily stops into St. Mary Major before and after his Apostolic Journeys, to spend some time with the Blessed Mother in prayer.

Even if its origins date much further back, tradition suggests that the icon of Maria Salus Populi Romani arrived in Rome during the reign of Pope St. Gregory the Great, sometime around 590 AD.

In 1838, Pope Gregory XVI crowned the icon, while about a century later, Pope Pius XII - during the Marian year of 1954 - repeated the gesture of devotion.

In 2018, the Vatican Museums cleaned and restored the ancient icon.

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06 November 2022, 18:10