.- The Holy Father left the Apostolic Palace on Thursday morning to bless a statue of Mary perched on a hill just a short distance north of the Vatican. While blessing the statue and venerating Mary, he commented on the importance of charity as the "best apologist for the Catholic faith" and as a tangible expression of Godâs love.
The purpose of the Popeâs visit was to bless the newly restored statue of Mary which fell and broke into three pieces during a heavy storm last October. The enormous figure, known locally as the âMadonnina,â was erected in Romeâs Monte Mario quarter in 1953 in thanksgiving for answered prayers for a peaceful transition from Nazi rule of the city during the Second World War.
Addressing those present at the âDon Orioneâ Center where the statue is located, Pope Benedict recognized the homage it gives to Mary and its role in making her present in the daily lives of the people from its perch high above the city.
The Holy Father also prayed aloud for the faithful that Our Lady, âMother of God and ours, might be always at the top of your thoughts and your affection, friendly comfort of your souls, sure guide of your wills and support for your steps, persuasive inspirer of the imitation of Jesus Christ.â
He also asked Mary to âprotect families, provoke good intentions and suggest desires for heaven to all.â
The Pope also made reference to the centerâs charitable assistance following St. Luigi Orioneâs motto that âOnly charity will save the world.â Recalling the role of the center, together with the âMadonnina,â in offering hope to the city, he pointed out that they have inspired citizens to works of charity, "the best apologist for the Catholic faith" which impels, moves and "brings people to faith and to hope."
Whether on a personal or institutional level, he said, charity âcan never be reduced to a mere philanthropic gesture, but must remain a tangible expression of the providential love of God.â
The Holy Father went on to visit the cloistered Dominican nuns at the nearby convent of Santa Maria del Rosario.