Pope Francis is an early riser and surprised the Romans on the very first morning of his pontificate by visiting, at 8.15 am, local time, one of Rome’s Major Basilicas, Saint Mary Major. The Pope came bearing a floral homage.
Upon his election on Wednesday evening the new Bishop of Rome had anticipated he was going to “go and pray to the Madonna so that she might protect Rome”.
And so it was that the newly elected Pope went to venerate Mary in this most ancient of Christian Basilicas in the West dedicated to her. Going directly to the Pauline Chapel to the left of the main nave to pray in front of the icon of the Madonna ‘Salus Populi Romani’.
On this occasion Pope Francis also went to pray by the main altar where a relic of the manger is housed and subsequently the Sistine Chapel across from the Pauline Chapel within the Basilica. A place especially significant to Jesuits as it’s where Saint Ignatius of Loyola once celebrated holy mass on Christmas eve following his ordination to the priesthood, While there he also prayed at the tomb of Saint Pius V.