Rome, Italy, Jul 21, 2013 / 11:38 am
Two days before his departure to Rio De Janeiro, Brazil for World Youth Day, Pope Francis made a surprise trip Saturday to Rome's Basilica of St. Mary Major in order to ask for Mary's intercession.
The Pope entered through the side door of the basilica. He spoke a few words to the faithful gathered there. He asked them to accompany him "with prayers, trust and penance" for World Youth Day.
Pope Francis spent over thirty minutes of his one hour and fifteen minute visit praying before the image of the Virgin Mary known as "Protectress of the Roman People." The large Byzantine icon of the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child is traditionally held to be a creation of St. Luke the Evangelist.
The Pope left flowers and lit a candle with the World Youth Day logo in front of the image.