December 09, 2013 - Pope Francis on Sunday observed a traditional December 8th appointment travelling downtown Rome to pray and pay a floral homage to Mary, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Pope Francis had crossed the city to the Spanish Square, where on the top of a tall ancient Roman column stands a statue of the Virgin Mary under the title of “Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception.” “Enkindle in all of us a renewed desire for holiness: may our words glow with the splendor of truth, may our works resound with the song of charity, may purity and chastity live in our bodies and in our hearts, may our lives express the presence of all the beauty of the gospel,” he prayed. “Help us to attentively listen to the voice of the Lord: let not the cry of the poor ever leave us indifferent, may the suffering of the sick and of those who are in need not find us inattentive, may the solitude of the elderly and the weakness of children move us, may every human life be loved and respected by all,” the pontiff prayed at the ceremony, attended by a large crowd. “Don’t let us forget the meaning of our earthly journey: may the noble light of faith illumine our days, may the consoling strength of hope direct our steps, and may the consoling warmth of love animate our heart, may our eyes always remain fixed there, in God, where there is true joy.” The dogma of faith of the Immaculate Conception was proclaimed on Dec. 8, 1854 by Pope Pius IX, which teaches that with "a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God," the Blessed Virgin Mary was "preserved free from all stain of original sin" from the moment of her conception, in anticipation of the merits of her son Jesus Christ. 
As part of his homage to the Immaculate Conception, then visited Rome’s Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica, the world’s largest Church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. 
Earlier Sunday, during the weekly midday ‘Angelus’ prayer with thousands of pilgrims and faithful in St. Peter’s Square in Rome, Pope Francis held out Mary as a model for Christian life. “All of her life, all of her being is a ‘yes’ to God,” he said urging all to look at her “in order to be more humble, and even more courageous in following the Word of God, to receive the tender embrace of her son Jesus, an embrace that gives us life, hope, and peace.” Mary’s ‘yes’ to God “was certainly not easy for her!” he exclaimed. “When the angel called her ‘full of grace’ she remained ‘troubled,’ because in her humility she felt unworthy before God.” Despite her concerns, “Mary listens, obeying interiorly and responds, ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word’.” This witness serves as an example for every Christian. “With great joy the Church contemplates Mary as ‘full of grace’,” Pope Francis explained. He encouraged the crowds to repeat with him, “full of grace!” 
Mary was chosen by God to be the mother of Jesus, but “we too… are chosen by God to live a life of holiness, free from sin. It is a project of love that God renews every time we come close to him, especially in the sacraments,” the Pope said. “Mary sustains us in our journey towards Christmas, because she teaches us to live this time of Advent in waiting for the Lord.”
Pope Francis recalled Mary’s humble origins – “a young girl from Nazareth, a little place in Galilee, on the periphery of the Roman Empire and also on the periphery of Israel. Yet upon her was the gaze of the Lord, who chose her to be the mother of His Son.” “The mystery of this young girl from Nazareth, which is in the heart of God, is not irrelevant to us,” reflected the pontiff. “In fact, God places his gaze of love on every man and every woman” the Pope explained. While observing the feast of the Immaculate Conception, the Pope said, “we also recognize our true destiny, our deepest vocation: to be loved, to be transformed by love.”

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