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Three images of Our Lady to accompany Pope’s visit to L’Aquila

Three images of Our Lady to accompany Pope’s visit to L’Aquila

When Pope Francis travels to the Italian city of L’Aquila on 28 August, three images of the Blessed Virgin Mary will accompany his pastoral visit to mark the annual “Celebration of Forgiveness”.

By Vatican News staff reporter

Three images of Our Lady will frame the Pope’s brief visit to L’Aquila, in the central Italian region of Abruzzo, on 28 August.

For the Pope’s visit, the sacred image of Our Lady of Roio (Our Lady of the Cross) will be placed on the papal altar that will be set up on the parvis of the Basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio for the celebration of Mass, over which Pope Francis will preside before the opening of the Holy Door of Collemaggio.

Our Lady of Roio

The people of L’Aquila have great devotion for the image of Our Lady of Roio.

Then-Archbishop Carlo Confalonieri of L’Aquila, who later became a cardinal, crowned the image on Sunday, 15 October 1944, in response to popular enthusiasm for the devotion witnessed at her Shrine.

He carried out the solemn rite of crowning in L’Aquila’s Cathedral Square, placing “the golden diadem on the head of the Divine Child and His Mother”, which consisted of two crowns forged by a local goldsmith with gold offered by the city’s residents and blessed personally by Pope Pius XII on 9 October 1944.

Now, Pope Francis will become the third Pope to venerate Our Lady of Roio, following in the footsteps of St. John Paul II who visited on 30 August 1980, and Benedict XVI on 28 April 2009, during his visit to the city which had recently been devastated by the 2009 earthquake.

Before he travels to Collemaggio, Pope Francis will meet in the Piazza Duomo with family members of the victims of the 2009 quake, following a private visit to St. Maximus Cathedral.

Set up on the stage in front of the Cathedral, near the Pope, will be a canvas depicting Our Lady of the People of L’Aquila (“Salus Populi Aquilani“).

The precious image, so dear to the faithful of L’Aquila, has been housed at the diocesan shrine at the Church of St. Mark the Evangelist, ever since the earthquake of 1703.

Post-seismic recovery

The image of Salus Populi Aquilani was recovered from the rubble by rescue teams on 3 May 2009, but without its precious crowns.

The canvas later underwent meticulous restoration. Archbishop Giuseppe Molinari re-crowned the image on 13 May 2013, as he rededicated it during a solemn Eucharistic celebration in the Basilica of St. Joseph the Craftsman in L’Aquila.

Since St. Mark’s Church must still undergo restoration, the image of Our Lady of the People of L’Aquila is housed in the “Chapel of Remembrance at the Church of Santa Maria del Suffragio to watch over the plaques containing the names of the victims of the 2009 earthquake.

The Virgin and Child

Lastly, Pope Francis will be accompanied by a third image of Our Lady as he prays before the urn of Pope Celestine V, where the Bull granting the “Forgiveness” will also be placed.

The stunning statue of the Virgin and Child attributed to Saturnino Gatti will sit nearby, following its recovery from the rubble at the Santa Maria di Collemaggio.

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