ROME (CNS) – In the heart of Rome’s high-end shopping district, sparkling with Christmas lights and shiny baubles in the windows of famous designers, Pope Francis prayed that people would spend time in silence and in service as they prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birth.
Celebrating the feast of the Immaculate Conception Dec. 8, Pope Francis prayed for Mary’s intercession so that, “in us, your children, grace also will prevail over pride, and we can become merciful like our heavenly Father is merciful.”
Before laying a basket of cream-colored roses at the foot of a statue of the Immaculate Conception near Rome’s Spanish Steps, Pope Francis recited a prayer he composed for the occasion.
The feast is a major Rome holiday, and with blue skies replacing days of rain, thousands of people lined the streets near the Spanish Steps to catch a glimpse of the pope and pray with him for Mary’s assistance.
Pope Francis said Mary being conceived without sin should give all Christians hope and strength “in the daily battle that we must conduct against the threats of evil,” because her immaculate conception is proof that evil does not have power over love.