– Catholic Herald, Rome – Pope Francis visited Piazza di Spagna early Tuesday morning, to mark the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.
It it a custom for popes to visit the square on December 8, for the crowning of the statue of Our Lady that stands atop a pillar by the square.
That act of veneration usually takes place in the late afternoon or early evening of the feast – a national holiday in Italy – with great crowds of Romans and tourists on hand to witness and participate.
This year, the coronavirus emergency put a damper on the festive custom, which also marks the unofficial start to the Christmas shopping season.
That did not keep Pope Francis from the site or the act of devotion, however.
A communiqué from the Press Office of the Holy See later Tuesday morning confirmed the visit, and said Pope Francis subsequently visited the Basilica of St Mary Major, where he prayed briefly before the icon of Our Lady, Salus populi Romani – the ancient image of the Blessed Virgin – one of the most beloved of Our Lady’s titles among Romans, to whom Romans have turned for solace and succour in times of trial since the sixth century.
*This story has been updated to include details of the communiqué from the Press Office of the Holy See