By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Under the beating rain this Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Pope Francis traveled in the early morning hours, masked and ready, to Rome’s center to venerate privately Mary Immaculate. There, the Holy Father entrusted the city and world to Mary’s care and protection.

This surprise excursion was communicated in a note to accredited journalists from the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, today, Dec. 8, 2020.

“At 7:00 am this morning, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Father went to Piazza di Spagna, for a private act of veneration to Mary Immaculate,” the statement began.

“At the first light of dawn, under rain,” the statement noted, “he placed a bouquet of white roses at the base of the column where the statue of Our Lady is found.

Pope Francis, it continued, turned “to Her in prayer, that She may watch over Rome and its inhabitants, entrusting to Her all those in this city and in the world that are afflicted by sickness and discouragement.”

Leaving Piazza di Spagna shortly before 7:15 am, the Pope next went to Santa Maria Maggiore, where he prayed before the icon of Mary Salus Popoli Romani and celebrated Mass in the Chapel of the Nativity scene. Preserved in the Marian basilica are relics of the sacred crib of Jesus.

On this Chapel’s altar, in the Crypt of the Nativity below the main altar of the church itself, founder of the Jesuits, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, celebrated his first Mass as a priest on Dec. 25, 1538.

After Mass, Pope Francis then returned to the Vatican.

This veneration to Mary is instead of the Pope’s usual gathering with the faithful of Rome at the statue of Mary Immaculate at the Spanish steps, which will not take place this year to avoid gathering crowds as the world wrestles through the COVID19 pandemic.

The photos in the article are courtesy of Vatican Media.

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