On today’s Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Pope donates Golden Rose to Rome’s ancient icon of Virgin Mary

Today Pope Francis will venerate Our Lady with a Golden Rose for the Marian icon of the Salus Populi Romani in the Basilica of St. Mary Major.

On this Feast of the Immaculate Conception he will travel to the Basilica to accomplish this historic gesture which has not been performed in 400 years.

As is traditional, the Pope will perform an Act of Veneration to the Blessed Virgin Mary before the statue of the Immaculate Conception in Rome’s central Piazza di Spagna.

Just ahead of that visit, he will stop at the Papal Basilica of St. Mary Major with his gift for Our Lady.

An ancient gift

The Golden Rose has ancient roots, symbolising the papal blessing, and the tradition of this gift dates back to the Middle Ages. Over the centuries, it has been given to monasteries, shrines, sovereigns, and prominent personalities in recognition of their commitment to faith and the common good.

As explained by a statement issued by the Basilica, with the gift of the Rose to the Salus Populi Romani, “Pope Francis highlights the spiritual importance and profound significance that this icon holds in the life of the Catholic Church, as it is also the oldest Marian shrine in the West dedicated to the Mother of God.”

Two precedents

This will not be the first time the Golden Rose has been given to the icon.

The first was gifted in 1551 by Pope Julius III, who was deeply devoted to the Salus Populi Romani. It was in the Basilica of St. Mary Major, on the altar of the Crib, that the Pope celebrated his first Mass.

In 1613, Pope Paul V donated a Golden Rose on the occasion of the translation of the venerated icon to the new Borghese Chapel built to house it.

The Basilica retains no trace of the two Golden Roses donated by the two Popes, which were probably lost during the Napoleonic invasion of the Papal States (Treaty of Tolentino, 1797).

So, after 400 years, the statement added, “the Pontiff has chosen to give a tangible sign of his devotion to the venerated icon, strengthening the millenary bond between the Catholic Church and the city of Rome.”

A historic gesture

The Extraordinary Commissioner of the Basilica, Archbishop Rolandas Makrickas, expressed his joy for the gesture.

“The gift of the Golden Rose is a historic gesture that visibly expresses Pope Francis’ profound bond with the Mother of God, who is venerated in this shrine under the title of Salus Populi Romani,” he said. “The people of God will be strengthened even more in their spiritual and devotional bond to the Blessed Virgin Mary. To the Salus, we ask the gift of peace for the whole  world.