On the eve of Pope Francis’s 36th Apostolic Journey abroad, he went as is his custom to the Roman Basilica of Saint Mary Major to entrust his visit to Our Lady, according to a statement from the Holy See Press Office.
Pope Francis will depart Rome on Saturday morning, arriving in Malta around 10:00 AM local time.
On Wednesday, during the General Audience, he called Malta a “luminous land”, and his destination as a “pilgrim in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul.”
It was on Malta that Paul was “welcomed with great humanity after being shipwrecked at sea on his way to Rome,” the Pope remarked during the General Audience.
It is on Malta that the Pope hopes to touch first hand the “wellsprings of the proclamation of the Gospel…to know at first hand a Christian community with a lively history stretching back thousands of years, and to meet the inhabitants of a country that lies at the center of the Mediterranean and in the south of the European continent, which today is increasingly engaged in welcoming so many brothers and sisters seeking refuge.”
The Basilica of Saint Mary Major, where the image of our Lady of the Snows is found, is a special place for Pope Francis. It’s a place he visits every time he undertakes an Apostolic Journey and again on his return.
In March of 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, he also went to the Basilica to pray before this icon, and to the church of Saint Marcellus, in the Corso, where the miraculous Crucifix is found that saved the Eternal City from the plague in the 16th century.
Last July 15, after being discharged from the hospital, following a planned colon operation, and before returning to the Vatican, the Holy Father went to the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, and prayed before the icon of the Virgin Mary Salus Populi Romani, to thank Her for the success of his surgical intervention and he also prayed for all patients, especially those he met during his stay in the hospital.”
And, in September of this year, before his trip to Budapest and Slovakia, the Bishop of Rome entrusted his visit to the Virgin.