After two historically important but lost copies, Pope Francis has decided to donate a new Golden Rose to the icon of the Salus Populi Romani which is venerated at the Basilica of Santa María la Mayor, to which the Argentine Pontiff is very attached, so much so that he visits her from the day after his election, at the beginning and end of every trip abroad, or at the end of hospital stays.
The homage will take place on the afternoon of Friday, December 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, before the Pope goes - as has always been his tradition, even during the tragic moment of the pandemic - to pay his respects to the statue of Our Lady in Piazza Mignanelli, next to the Spanish Steps.
A millenary link
"After 400 years, the Pontiff wanted to give a tangible sign of his devotion to the venerated icon," reads a note from the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, "reinforcing the millennial bond between the Catholic Church and the city of Rome."
In fact, there are already two Roses attributed to the Salus Populi RomaniThe first was donated by Pope Julius III in 1551 and the second by Pope Paul V in 1613. The first pontiff was very attached to the Basilica, to the point that he celebrated his first Mass on the altar of the Crib. Paul V, for his part, donated it on the occasion of the transfer of the Icon of the Virgin to the new Pauline Chapel, erected expressly to house it and where it is still preserved today. No trace remains of both Roses, and it is assumed that they were lost in 1797 (Treaty of Tolentino), after the Napoleonic invasion of the Papal States.
Commenting on the gift, the extraordinary curator of the Basilica of St. Mary Major, Monsignor Rolandas Makrickas, described the Holy Father's gift as a "historic gesture" that confirms the Pontiff's bond "with the Mother of God". Moreover, through it "the people of God will be further strengthened in their spiritual and devotional bond with the Blessed Virgin Mary".
The Rosary for Peace
At the end of last year's Marian month, Pope Francis chose the Basilica of St. Mary Major to pray the Rosary of Peace - especially for the tormented Ukraine - before the Icon of the Salus Populi Romani, together with the shrines of various countries around the world connected by streaming.
And on that occasion he invoked: "grant the great gift of peace, that war, which for decades has been ravaging various parts of the world, may soon cease". And again: "intercede for us before your Son, reconcile the hearts full of violence and revenge, straighten the thoughts blinded by the desire of easy enrichment, make your peace reign over the whole earth".
Unfortunately, these are current words that continue to call for the intervention of prayer.
Homage to the Immaculate Conception
There is no doubt that the Pope will also mention it before the image of the Immaculate Conception in Mignanelli Square, which he will visit on December 8 in the afternoon.
A purely "Roman" tradition that the Pontiff has never wanted to lose. Last year, Ukraine remained at the center of his thoughts: "I would have liked to bring you today the gratitude of the Ukrainian people for the peace that we have been asking the Lord for so long. Instead, I have yet to bring you the plea of the children, of the elderly, of fathers and mothers, of the young people of that tormented land that suffers so much".
Today, unfortunately, we are thinking of the Holy Land, tragically affected by a sudden and disproportionate conflict that is claiming thousands of innocent victims. May once again: "over hatred may love triumph, over lies may truth triumph, over offense may forgiveness triumph, over war may peace triumph". A hope that now becomes an absolute necessity for the whole world.