This year the tradition was revived and to welcome Pope Francis there were once again numerous pilgrims and the sick, who surrounded the square in an orderly fashion, as if in a great embrace, along the sides of the historic Mignanelli Square, which also overlooks the majestic building that houses the Spanish Embassy to the Holy See.
We find it interesting, on this occasion, to review the petitions of commendation that the Pontiff has addressed to the Virgin Mary to date on the day on which we celebrate her Immaculate Conception, a dogma of the Church established by Pius IX on December 8, 168 years ago (1854) with the Bull Ineffabilis Deus.
2022 - The filial love of those who yearn for hope and consolation
In this year's prayer, which followed the more than centenary visit to the Basilica of St. Mary Major before the icon of the Salus Populi Romani, Pope Francis began by recalling the many "invisible flowers" that are the often silent, stifled or hidden invocations and supplications of the faithful to the Immaculate Virgin. And he said to bring to the feet of Our Lady "the filial love" of those who yearn for hope and consolation, "the smiles of children"; "the gratitude of the elderly and the elderly", "the worries of families", "the dreams and anxieties of young people", who suffer from a culture rich in things but poor in values... The reference to Ukraine and the tormented people who implore peace was inevitable. The final hope is that hatred will overcome love, lies will overcome truth, offense will overcome forgiveness and war will overcome peace.
2021 - Healing and curing diseases, wars and climate crises
Last year, with restrictions still in place due to the health emergency, Pope Francis went to the Square in private, around 6:00 a.m., depositing a basket of white roses at the base of the column supporting the Virgin Mary. The prayer he addressed on that occasion referred - according to the account of the director of the Holy See Press Office - "to the miracle of healing, for the many sick; of healing, for the people who suffer harshly from wars and the climate crisis; and of conversion, that it may melt the hearts of stone of those who build walls to keep the pain of others from themselves".
2020 - For those afflicted by discouragement
The previous year, in 2020, there was rain to keep the Pontiff company in an equally deserted square; at first the Holy See had announced that the Act would not take place, so the surprise was great when a few hours later it was known that the Pope had not missed the appointment. Given the circumstances of the pandemic period at its worst, the prayer of commendation referred to all those in the City of Rome and throughout the world who are "afflicted by illness and discouragement". After the Spanish Steps, the Pope proceeded to Santa Maria Maggiore, where he celebrated Mass in the Chapel of the Crib.
2019 - Free from the fiercest addictions and the most criminal attachments.
The prayer recited in 2019 contained an explicit reference to the many types of "corruption," which are much more dangerous than being sinners who later repent, for when it affects the heart, corruption represents "the gravest danger": "evil intentions and petty selfishness." However, the Pope's plea for intercession refers to the lifeline, which through Mary can reach those oppressed by distrust because of sin, so that even in the thickest darkness there may always shine "a ray of the light of the risen Christ," which breaks the chains of evil and frees from the fiercest addictions and the most criminal bonds.
2018 - Experiencing the sweet joy of evangelizing.
That the care of each one may make the city "more beautiful and livable for all" and that those in positions of responsibility may receive "wisdom, foresight, a spirit of service and collaboration". The prayer for 2018 is dedicated to Rome and its diocese, with special attention to parish priests, consecrated persons and lay collaborators, so that all may experience "the sweet joy of evangelizing." The Pope also prays to the Immaculate Virgin so that she may be close to those who, not only in Rome, but also in Italy and throughout the world, live situations of marginalization and indifference.
2017 - Shedding Pride and Arrogance
On the fifth occasion in which the Holy Father venerated Our Lady of the Spanish Steps, the petition referred to support in the capacity to develop "antibodies" against viruses such as indifference, "civic rudeness," "fear of the different and the foreigner," transformism that disguises itself as transgression and the exploitation of men and women. Help also consists in stripping ourselves of pride and arrogance "to recognize ourselves as we really are: small and poor sinners, but your children".
2016 - Close to children, families, workers, the lost and the despised.
At the center of the 2016 prayer are the children - alone, abandoned, deceived and exploited -, the families - who are busy but also suffer the fatigue of so many problems -, the workers - both those who have it and those who have lost it or cannot find it. We must learn to look at everyone "with respect and gratitude, without selfish interests or hypocrisy," but also to touch with tenderness the poor, the sick, the despised, the lost, the lonely. Mary's help consists in making a deep commitment "to renew ourselves, this city and the whole world".
2015 - The Victory of Divine Mercy over Sin
"Looking to you, Immaculate Mother, we recognize the victory of divine Mercy over sin and all its consequences" is the invocation for 2015, where the Pope hopes for the rebirth of hope in a better life for all and liberation from "slavery, grudges and fears", certain of the closeness of Our Lady, who accompanies, is near and sustains her children in every difficulty.
2014 - Learning to go against the current
May humanity free itself from all spiritual and material slavery so that "God's salvific design may prevail in hearts and in events", is the invocation that Pope Francis addressed on the second occasion that he visited Our Lady in the Spanish Steps, and already on that occasion he had spoken of overcoming pride, of becoming merciful to one's brothers and sisters, of learning to "go against the current": to surrender oneself, to keep silence, to free oneself from the superfluous, to listen and "make room for the beauty of God, source of true joy".
2013 - Awakening a renewed desire for holiness
Nine months after the beginning of the pontificate, the first act of veneration recalls the "desire for holiness" that the Virgin Mary arouses in her children, so that they may know how to bring forth "the splendor of truth", to make "the song of charity" resound, to make present "the beauty of the Gospel" through hearts inhabited by "purity and chastity". May they not leave indifferent the cries of the poor, the suffering of the sick, the loneliness of the elderly, the fragility of children, and may "every human life be loved and venerated by all of us".