On the feast day, Pope Francis also offered a prayer before the Byzantine Marian icon Salus Populi Romani in the Basilica of St. Mary Major.
The statue of the Immaculate Conception in Piazza di Spagna sits atop a nearly 40-foot-high column. It was dedicated Dec. 8, 1857, just a few years after the Catholic Church proclaimed the doctrine of Mary's Immaculate Conception. Since the 1950s, it has been a custom for popes to venerate the statue for the feast day.
The statue is adorned with flower wreaths hung around Mary's outstretched arms and laid at the base of the statue.
Below is the full text of the original prayer Pope Francis offered for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception Dec. 8.
O Mary Immaculate,
we gather around you once again.
The more we go on in life
the more our gratitude to God increases
for giving to us as a mother, we that are sinners,
You, who are the Immaculate.
Among all human beings, you are the only one
preserved from sin, as the mother of Jesus
Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
But this your unique privilege
it was given to you for the sake of us all, your children.
In fact, looking at you, we see the victory of Christ,
the victory of God's love over evil:
where sin abounded, that is, in the human heart,
for the gentle power of the Blood of Jesus.
You, Mother, remind us that, yes, we are sinners,
but we are no longer slaves to sin!
Your Son, with his Sacrifice,
He broke the dominion of evil, He won the world.
Your heart tells this to all generations
as clear as the sky where the wind has dispeled every cloud.
And so you remind us that it's not the same thing
to be sinners and to be corrupt: it is very different.
It is one thing to fall, but then, repent, confess it
and rise again with the help of God's mercy.
Another thing is the hypocritical connivance with evil,
the corruption of the heart, which is impeccable outside,
but inside is full of evil intentions and petty selfishness.
Your clear purity recalls us to sincerity,
to transparency, to simplicity.
How much we need to be released
from the corruption of the heart, which is the most serious danger!
This seems impossible to us, we are so inured,
and instead it is at hand. Enough
to raise our eyes to your Mother's smile, to your pristine beauty,
to feel again that we are not made for evil,
but for good, for love, for God!