Pope Francis thanks Our Lady upon return to Rome

Pope Francis visits the Basilica of St. Mary Major upon his return to Rome, and prays before the icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary in thanksgiving for his Apostolic Journey to South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

By Devin Watkins

As per tradition, Pope Francis made a brief stop at the Basilica of St. Mary Major on Sunday, upon returning to Rome from South Sudan, marking his 104th visit to Our Lady’s icon.

The Pope prayed briefly before the ancient icon of Maria Salus Populi Romani (‘Salvation of the Roman Peoples’), according to the Holy See Press Office.

The Pope thanked Our Lady for her maternal protection during his Apostolic Journey to DR Congo and South Sudan.

He had visited the Borghese Chapel in the Papal Basilica on Monday, ahead of his departure.

Ancient devotion

Even though its origins date back much further, tradition holds that the icon of Maria Salus Populi Romani arrived in Rome during the reign of Pope St. Gregory the Great, sometime around 590 AD.

In 1838, Pope Gregory XVI crowned the icon, and a century later, Pope Pius XII – during the Marian year of 1954 – repeated the gesture of devotion.

In 2018, the Vatican Museums cleaned and restored the ancient icon.