POPE'S UNEXPECTED VISIT TO ST. MARY MAJOR TO ASK PROTECTION OF THE VIRGIN Vatican City, 21 July 2013 (VIS) – Yesterday afternoon the Holy Father paid an unscheduled visit to the Basilica of St. Mary Major to ask the protection of the Virgin Mary during his apostolic trip to Brazil, for the young people who will gather in Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day and for young people all over the world. The Pope arrived at the Basilica at 4.45 p.m., where he was received by the Cardinal Archpriest Santos Abril y Castello. He entered via the side door of the Sacristy and proceeded straight to the Chapel where the image of Our Lady Salus Populi Romani is held, and where the canons of the Basilica and the Dominican Fathers were gathered. The Pope spent half an hour in silent prayer before the marian icon, then offered a floral tribute and lit a candle, recalling the symbolic logo of World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro. Since the Basilica was open to the public and many faithful were present, before leaving the Pope stopped before the central altar where he heard a brief address from the cardinal archpriest, and he spoke briefly to those present, asking them too to accompany his trip to Brazil “with prayer, trust and penitence”. The visit lasted for little more than an hour and at 6 p.m. the Holy Father returned to the Vatican.
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