VATICAN CITY, DEC 8, 2005 (VIS) - Today at 4 p.m. Benedict XVI travelled by car to Rome's Piazza di Spagna to place the traditional floral wreath at the foot of the statue of Mary in celebration of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.
Before arriving in the square, the Holy Father stopped briefly at the Church of the Most Holy Trinity to greet the Dominican Friars and the members of the Via Condotti Storeowners Association. Once in the square, in the presence of thousands of faithful, he blessed a basket of roses which was placed at the foot of the column bearing Mary's statue.
"On this day," said the Holy Father, "I have, for the first time as Peter's Successor, come here to the foot of the statue Mary Immaculate in Piazza di Spagna, spiritually following the pilgrimage so often undertaken by my predecessors. ... I bring with me the fears and hopes of humanity of our time and I place them here at the feet of the heavenly Mother of the Redeemer."
The Pope again recalled the 40th anniversary of the closing of Vatican Council II, and the Eucharistic celebration held in St. Peter's Square on that occasion when "Paul VI turned his thoughts to the Virgin 'the Mother of God and our spiritual Mother, ... the creature in which God's image is reflected with absolute clarity'."
"Remembering the many events that marked the last 40 years, how can we not recall today the various moments that characterized the Church's journey over this period? Over those four decades, the Virgin has given her support to pastors and, in the first place, to Peter's Successors. ... She has guided the Church towards a faithful understanding and application of the conciliar documents. For this reason, speaking for the entire ecclesial community, I would like to thank the most Holy Virgin ... with the same sentiments that animated the Conciliar Fathers who dedicated to her the last chapter of the Dogmatic Constitution 'Lumen gentium,' highlighting the unbreakable bond that unites the Virgin to the Church."
"Virgin Mother of God, and Mother of ours," the Pope cried, "teach us to keep the mysteries of Christ's life in our hearts, and to meditate in silence as you did. You who proceeded to Calvary, ... let us also feel you near in all moments of life, especially moments of darkness and trial. You who at the Pentecost, together with the Apostles in prayer, implored the gift of the Holy Spirit for the nascent Church, help us to follow Christ faithfully. To you we trustingly turn our gaze 'as a sign of sure hope and solace ... until the day of the Lord shall come'."
AC/IMMACULATE CONCEPTION/SPANISH SQUARE VIS 20051209 (470)