Vatican City, May 29, 2023 / 10:30 am (CNA).
To honor the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Vatican offers a special Marian pilgrimage within St. Peter’s Basilica each Saturday afternoon during the month of May.
The Marian itinerary brings pilgrims from Michelangelo’s marble sculpture of the Pieta to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, a 12th-century painting brought into the basilica in 1578 in a solemn procession.
For those unable to travel to the Eternal City, CNA is providing the following “virtual tour” with photos by Daniel Ibañez of eight beautiful images of Our Lady in St. Peter’s Basilica for the feast of Mary, Mother of the Church.
In the basilica’s Chapel of the Choir, a large altarpiece reveals Mary, Virgin Immaculate, in the glory of heaven above angels and saints. The mosaic based on an 18th-century painting by Italian artist Pietro Bianchi depicts St. John Chrysostom St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Anthony of Padua venerating the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The chapel is located on the left side of the basilica behind an iron gate designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. St. John Chrysostom is buried beneath the altar, which also contains relics of St. Francis and St. Anthony.
When Pope Pius IX declared the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary on December 8, 1854, he had a golden crown added to the mosaic of Mary. Pope Pius X later added a larger diamond crown to mark the 50th anniversary of the declaration in 1904.
The original painting by Bianchi can be found in Rome’s Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri.
Mother of the Church
The basilica contains an icon of the Virgin Mary titled “Mater Ecclesiae,” which means “Mother of the Church.”
The original image of the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child was painted on a column in old St. Peter’s Basilica, built by Emperor Constantine in the fourth century. It was later transferred to the 16th-century St. Peter’s Basilica. Paul VI honored the icon with the title “Mater Ecclesiae” after the Second Vatican Council.
A mosaic of the Virgin Mary overlooking St. Peter’s Square was inspired by the original Mater Ecclesiae image. The mosaic was installed after the assassination attempt against St. John Paul II in 1981.
When he blessed the mosaic, John Paul II prayed “that all those who will come to this St. Peter’s Square will lift up their gaze towards you [Mary], to direct, with feelings of filial trust, their greetings and their prayers.”
In 2018, Pope Francis added the memorial of “Mary, Mother of the Church” to the liturgical calendar for the Monday after Pentecost.
Mother of Pilgrims
A restored 16th-century painting of Our Lady holding her son can be found in St. Peter’s Basilica above the sarcophagus of Pope Gregory XIV.
The image is titled “Mater Peregrinorum” or Mother of Pilgrims. The original artist is not known, but Italians also refer to the painting as the “Madonna di Scossacavalli” because it came from Rome’s Church of San Giacomo Scossacavalli, which was demolished in 1937 to create the current Via della Conciliazione leading to St. Peter’s Basilica.
Our Lady of Perpetual Help
A 12th-century painting on wood titled Our Lady of Perpetual Help, also known as Our Lady of Succor, was transferred to an altar in St. Peter’s Gregorian Chapel on February 12, 1578 with a solemn procession.
The painting was the first artistic restoration completed under Pope Francis’ pontificate during the Year of Faith, according to a book published by the Knights of Columbus.
The remains of the Doctor of the Church St. Gregory of Nazianzus (d. 390) are preserved in an urn beneath the Altar of Our Lady of Succor in the Gregorian Chapel, found on the right side of the basilica.
Ark of the Covenant
A colorful mosaic altarpiece of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary in the Temple brightens the wall above the tomb of Pope St. Pius X (d. 1914) in the Presentation Chapel near the left-front entrance of the basilica.
A young Mary is depicted on the steps of the Temple with her parents, Sts. Anne and Joachim, the grandparents of Jesus.
The mosaic completed by Pietro Paolo Cristofari in 1728 is based on a painting by 17th-century artist Giovanni Francesco Romaneli, the original of which can be found in Rome’s Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri.
Gate of Heaven
The central door leading to basilica was retained from the old St. Peter’s Basilica and is known as the Filarete Door. Created by a Florentine artist in 1455, the door depicts Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the apostles Sts. Peter and Paul.
According to Father Agnello Stoia, the pastor of the parish of St. Peter’s Basilica, the 15th-century image of Mary on the door is a reminder of Mary’s title, “Gate of Heaven.”
Queen Assumed into Heaven
Looking up at the soaring cupola, or dome, of St. Peter’s Basilica, one sees mosaics depicting the Blessed Virgin Mary next to Christ the Redeemer, along with St. John the Baptist and the apostles.
The mosaic of the Virgin Mary on the Great Dome, completed in 1610 by Orazio Gentileschi, is based on drawings by Italian Mannerist painter Giuseppe Cesari.
Mother of the Redeemer
Michelangelo Buonarroti carved the Pieta from a single slab of Carrara marble when he was 24-years old. The sculpture was unveiled in St. Peter’s Basilica for the Jubilee of 1500.
The moving sculpture conveys the faith and emotion of the Blessed Virgin Mary as she cradles in her arms the dead body of her only son after witnessing him crucified.
The sculpture sits above a side-altar near the front entrance of St. Peter’s Basilica, where Mass was sometimes offered before recent restrictions. Visitors to the basilica can only see the Pieta behind bulletproof glass after a man attacked the sculpture with a hammer in May 1972.
The Pieta was the only work of art that Michelangelo ever signed.
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Pope Francis on Friday told young people to let their true beauty shine, the beauty that is a reflection of divine beauty.
In a message to participants in the Ursuline Global Education Compact, the pope said Sept. 30 that one could not educate “without leading a person to beauty, without leading the heart to beauty.”
“The beauty we are talking about is not turned in on itself like that of Narcissus, who fell in love with his own image and drowned in the lake in which he saw himself mirrored.”
Instead, Pope Francis told students he was speaking of the beauty that never fades because it is a reflection of divine beauty.
“The beauty that Jesus revealed to us is a splendor that communicates itself through action; a beauty that is embodied in order to be shared; a beauty that is not afraid of getting its hands dirty, of becoming disfigured in order to be faithful to the love of which it is made.”
Pope Francis told the students he wished them “a healthy restlessness” to be open and courageous like St. Ursula, the “little bear,” who dared to embark on a long journey with her companions and fearlessly faced attacks to the point of martyrdom.
Finally, Pope Francis said he hoped to see participants at next year’s World Youth Day in Lisbon, “which promises to be a great sign of hope and beauty for all the young people of the world.”
Vatican City, Apr 21, 2022 / 03:05 am (CNA).
Pope Francis has said that Catholic education and formation are more important than ever in “an age awash in information often transmitted without wisdom or critical sense.”
“As educators, you are called to nurture the desire for truth, goodness and beauty that lies in the heart of each individual, so that all may learn how to love life and be open to the fullness of life,” Pope Francis wrote in a message delivered to a delegation from English-speaking Catholic universities on April 20.
“Catholic education is also evangelization: bearing witness to the joy of the Gospel and its power to renew our communities and provide hope and strength in facing wisely the challenges of the present time,” he said.
Pope Francis met with a delegation from the Global Researchers Advancing Catholic Education (G.R.A.C.E.) at the Vatican’s apostolic palace on Wednesday morning.
The GRACE project is a collaboration between five Catholic universities in Europe, the United States, and Australia.
In written remarks prepared for the meeting and given to the delegation, the pope encouraged the Catholic university representatives to discern “innovative ways of uniting research with best practices so that teachers can serve the whole person in a process of integral human development.”
“In short, this means forming the head, hands and heart together: preserving and enhancing the link between learning, doing and feeling in the noblest sense. In this way, you will be able to offer not only an excellent academic curriculum, but also a coherent vision of life inspired by the teachings of Christ,” Pope Francis said.
“In this sense, the Church’s work of education aims not only ‘at developing the maturity of the human person … but is especially directed towards ensuring that those who have been baptized become daily more appreciative of the gift of faith which they have received’” (Second Vatican Council’s Declaration Gravissimum Educationis, 2).
Through the GRACE project, a long-term partnership has been formed between Boston College in the U.S., the University of Notre Dame in Australia, Mary Immaculate College Limerick in Ireland, Saint Mary’s University Twickenham in the U.K. and the International Office of Catholic Education in Rome.
The group organizes webinars and meetings, and supports doctoral students in research projects focused on Catholic education.
The pope opted to speak off the cuff to the group in Italian, apologizing for not speaking in English and noting that he “understood almost everything” that the delegation had said.
“I lived in Ireland, in Dublin, in Milltown Park, to study English. I studied English, but I forgot, excuse me!” he joked.
In his off the cuff remarks, the pope spoke about the relationship between tradition and progress.
He said: “Without roots, no progress can be made. Only with the roots do we become people: not museum statues, like some cold, starched, rigid traditionalists, with the thought that providing for life means living attached to the roots.”
“There is a need for this relationship with the roots, but also to move forward. And this is the true tradition: taking from the past to move forward. Tradition is not static: it is dynamic, aimed at moving forward.”
The pope met with the delegation ahead of his Wednesday general audience, where he spoke about the importance of honoring the elderly.
“May the joy of these days of Easter fill your hearts, and may your meeting here in the Eternal City strengthen you in fidelity to the Lord and his Church, and enrich your efforts to highlight the distinctiveness of our Catholic vision of education,” the pope’s written message to Catholic educators said.
“I trust that this study visit will inspire each of you to rededicate himself or herself with generous zeal to your vocation as educators, to your efforts to solidify the foundations of a more humane and solidary society, and thus the advancement Christ’s kingdom of truth, holiness, justice and peace,” he said.
Pope Francis inaugurates the new art gallery at the Vatican Apostolic Library, Nov. 5, 2021. / Vatican Media.
Vatican City, Nov 5, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).
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