Pope Francis prayed that people would never be indifferent to the cries of the poor, the suffering of the sick, the loneliness of the elderly and the fragility of children.
"May every human life always be loved and venerated by all of us," he prayed on the feast of the Immaculate Conception Dec. 8.
Pope Francis marked the feast day with a traditional afternoon visit to a statue of Mary erected near the Spanish Steps.
He traveled between the Vatican and the heart of Rome's tourist and
shopping district riding in the passenger front seat of a four-door Ford
Focus sedan. The visit was to pay homage to Mary by praying before the
statue, which commemorates Pope Pius IX's proclamation in 1854 that
Mary, by special divine favor, was without sin from the moment she was
The pope offered a large basket of white roses trimmed with a white- and
yellow-striped ribbon decorated with the pope's coat-of-arms. The
basket was set among scores of other floral arrangements at the foot of
the column topped by the statue.
While he did not give a speech or make any formal remarks to the crowds
gathered for the event, he spoke from a prepared prayer asking that Mary
would renew in everyone the desire to be holy, charitable, pure and
chaste and to speak words that "glow with the splendor of truth."
Standing before the statue, he asked Mary to "help us stay attentive to
listen to the Lord's voice: that the cry of the poor never leave us
indifferent, that the suffering of the sick and those in need not find
us distracted, that the solitude of the elderly and the fragility of
children may move us" and that everyone seek to love and respect every
At the end of the prayers, Pope Francis kissed, hugged, greeted and
blessed a long line of people in wheelchairs and their caregivers. He
received a few individual white roses from people and a few notes and
After the ceremony, he stopped at Rome's Basilica of St. Mary Major to
pray before the basilica's famous Marian icon "Salus Populi Romani"
(health of the Roman people).
Reciting the Angelus earlier in the day to the crowds gathered in St.
Peter's Square, the pope said Mary never strayed from the love and plan
that God had for her even when accepting that plan fully "was certainly
not easy for her."
However, God's love and plan for Mary, he said, are not something
"alien" or irrelevant to the rest of humanity, despite the presence of
God wants and chooses everyone to be holy and immaculate, he said. "All
along, we, too, have been chosen by God to live a holy life free from
sin. It is a plan of love that God renews every time we approach him,
especially in the sacraments."
Pope Francis asked that, in contemplating Mary, people recognize their
true destiny and vocation: "to be loved and transformed by love."
May people look to Mary "to learn how to be more humble and also more
courageous in following the Word of God and for accepting the tender
embrace of her son, Jesus, an embrace that gives us life, hope and
peace," he said.