The Vatican announced Wednesday that this summer the Holy Father will visit and bless a restored statue of Mary that overlooks the city of Rome. The Virgin, which was created in thanks for the city being peacefully liberated from the Nazis during World War II, was damaged in a storm last year.
In 1953, the statue was placed on a hill near the Vatican in a part of Rome called Monte Mario to remember the intercession of the Virgin Mary in securing the peaceful liberation of the city from Nazi occupants during World War II.
A popular 1944 initiative promoted by the local religious community of "Orionini" in Rome promised "charity and faith" in exchange for the bloodless transition of the city from the hands of German soldiers. Over one million people signed the petition at the time and the vow was made publicly before a statue of Our Lady of Divine Love in St. Ignatius parish on June 4.
Following the departure of Nazi troops, which took place seven days after the public vow, Pope Pius XII celebrated Mass at the church, thanking the Virgin Mary for protecting the Eternal City and its inhabitants "against all human predictions."
After having been blown to the ground during a storm last October, the 30-foot tall gilded copper statue has been restored and repositioned atop its 60-foot tall pedestal.
Pope Benedict will make the short excursion outside the Vatican walls on June 24 to bless it and visit a local Dominican convent. After disaster struck last fall, he said he hoped the statue would be speedily replaced "for the devotion of all Romans."
The statue was designed by a Jewish sculptor named Arrigo Minerbi, who was protected by the "Orionini" during the War. Despite its size, it is referred to affectionately by Romans as the "Madonnina," or "little Madonna."