According to tradition, Pope Francis, on his return to Rome, makes a detour to the Marian Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore to thank the Blessed Mother for her maternal protection of his apostolic journey to the Kingdom of Bahrain.
By Deborah Castellano Lubov
Pope Francis thanked the Blessed Mother for her apostolic visit to the Kingdom of Bahrain.
In keeping with tradition, the Pope visited Rome’s Marian Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore on his return to Rome from his apostolic journey to visit Our Lady and give thanks for her maternal protection.
According to the Press Office of the Holy See, the Pope remained for a few moments in prayer at the feet of the ancient Roman icon of Maria Salus Populi Romani (“Hail of the Roman Peoples”) to express gratitude to Mary for the fruitful days abroad.
A memorable trip
Pope Francis landed in Rome on Sunday afternoon after his just concluded 39th overseas apostolic trip, which marked his second to the Gulf region of the Middle East and the 58th country visited as pope.
The Gulf Air Boeing 787 plane carrying the Pope, his entourage and accompanying journalists, arrived in the Italian capital after the rewarding four-day trip to the Muslim-majority island nation, which the Pope visited to take part at The Bahrain Forum for Dialogue and to bring closeness to the small and diverse Catholic flock in the country.
The Holy Father gave great encouragement to the local Church in the country, including celebrating Mass for some 30,000 faithful from 111 countries, where he spoke of love, and stressed that the spiral of violence that is rampant in the world can end up still loving everyone.
The mass marks the second mass ever celebrated by a pope on the peninsula, the first being the one Pope Francis celebrated in Abu Dhabi in 2019.
The Holy Father invited young people to live their faith and draw near to Christ, and urged the clergy and religious who serve there to preserve the joy that God has given them, to spread it everywhere and to remember that ‘with God they can face and overcome anything.
To The Bahrain Dialogue ForumPope Francis has called on other religious leaders to recognize their immense responsibility and “duty” to help suffering humanity, especially by promoting peace and condemning those who use God’s name to perpetrate violence.
In addition to addressing all religious leaders during the Forum, the Pope also specifically met with the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Al Tayyeb, and the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I.
Against the backdrop of war and suffering, and grave injustices across the world, the Pope has issued strong appeals for peace, especially in Ukraine, Ethiopia and Yemen, to end rearmament, and to human rights, in particular for religious freedom, recognition of the rights and dignity of women, children and citizenship.
The tradition continues
The Holy Father usually stops at Santa Maria Maggiore before and after his apostolic journeys, to spend some time with the Blessed Mother in prayer.
Although its origins date back much further, tradition has it that the icon of Maria Salus Populi Romani arrived in Rome during the reign of Pope Saint Gregory the Great, around 590 AD.
In 1838 Pope Gregory XVI crowned the icon, while in 1995 Pope Pius XII – in the Marian year of 1954 – repeated the devotional gesture.
In 2018, the Vatican Museums cleaned and restored the ancient icon.