St. Peter’s Square was illuminated by candlelight Saturday night as pilgrims prayed the rosary in a procession in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The rosary procession was part of a Vatican initiative for the month of May, a special time of devotion in the Catholic Church honoring Mary as Mother of God.
St. Peter’s Basilica is hosting the candlelight procession at 9 p.m. every Saturday in May. Amid Rome’s spring thunderstorms, pilgrims have faithfully come to join the processions, rain or shine.
Father Michael Kong, a priest from Australia currently residing in Rome, attended the most recent procession and came prepared for bad weather.
“I walked to St. Peter’s with my umbrella under the rain. But the funny thing was that just before the procession began, the rain stopped,” Kong told CNA.
The priest said the public procession was a beautiful reminder that there are “plenty of people who still pray the rosary and have a devotion to Mary.”
“This was something that assures me that I’m not walking by myself, but [that] there are many faithful who pray the rosary and walk this way with the same intentions,” he said.
Cardinal Mario Grech, the secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, led the procession on May 20. Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, the substitute (Sostituto) of the Vatican Secretariat of State, will preside over the final procession on May 27.
After each mystery, Grech provided a short reflection and mentioned a prayer intention, including a prayer for peace.
The rosary procession is one of several new public devotions taking place at the Vatican. St. Peter’s Basilica is also offering a walking pilgrimage bringing pilgrims to pray at the most important Marian images within the basilica each Saturday in May at 4 p.m.
Throughout the summer, St. Peter’s Basilica will also continue to offer outdoor eucharistic adoration on the first Tuesday of each month.
During the rosary procession, pilgrims carried a large framed icon of the Virgin Mary titled “Mater Ecclesiae,” which means “Mother of the Church,” a copy of the original image found inside St. Peter’s Basilica.
The original Mater Ecclesiae 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, where it can still be seen above one of the side altars.
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.
Hannah Brockhaus contributed to this story.
This article was originally published on Catholic News Agency.
Courtney Mares is a Rome Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. A graduate of Harvard University, she has reported from news bureaus on three continents and was awarded the Gardner Fellowship for her work with North Korean refugees.