In keeping with tradition, Pope Francis visited Rome’s Piazza di Spagna to pray before the statue of Our Lady on 8 December, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. On his way there, he stopped at the Basilica of Saint Mary Major to pray before the icon of the Salus Populi Romani. During his visit, he stopped to greet a group of adults and children with disabilities.
It was the Pontiff’s 115th visit to the Basilica, but this occasion was particularly special, as the Holy Father offered Our Lady a golden rose in addition to the usual floral bouquet. The gift of the golden rose highlights the spiritual importance and profound significance of the Marian icon for the Church. The last time it was offered to the Salus Populi Romani was 400 years ago; Pope Paul v was the last pontiff to do so, in 1613.