At midday, from a window of the apostolic palace, the pope explained that his morning exit was intended to “avoid the risk of gatherings”, an instruction recommended by the national authorities “which must be obeyed”.
Under pouring rain, the Sovereign Pontiff went to the Spanish Steps at 7 a.m. to lay white roses at the foot of the monumental column of the Immaculate Conception, surmounted by a bronze statue of the Virgin Mary .
He prayed that the Virgin will watch over all those who in Rome and in the world “are afflicted by illness and discouragement”, before leaving after a quarter of an hour, said a Vatican statement.
This tradition, every December 8, dates back to the middle of the 20th century, but it had been officially canceled due to the epidemic of the coronavirus, which has already claimed more than 60,000 lives in Italy.
The firefighters of Rome offer wreaths of flowers to the Virgin on the occasion of this festival, which they hoist with a crane to the top of the column, 27 meters high, to place them around the arms of the statue, where they stay for a year. Just before this rite, they were very surprised to see the Pope arrive in a small car, according to their Twitter account.
On Tuesday, the Pope also decreed a special year dedicated to Saint Joseph, husband of Mary. In an apostolic letter, he explained that the coronavirus pandemic highlighted the importance of “ordinary” people like the biblical character of Joseph, a worker, a husband and a father, “the man who goes unnoticed, the man of daily presence, discreet and hidden “.
The Pope once again expressed his gratitude to “doctors, nurses, supermarket workers, maintenance workers, home care providers, transporters, law enforcement, volunteers, priests, nuns and so many others. who have understood that no one runs away on their own “and who” are writing today the decisive events in our history “.