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The Marian Devotion of Pope Francis

Michael O'Neill
May 11, 2013

Immediately following his election, Pope Francis prayed in front of an ancient icon, called the Salus Populi Romani, or the Protectress of the Roman People, held by tradition to have been painted by St. Luke himself. He also brought flowers and laid them beneath the icon on honor of Mary. The first act of his pontificate was to pray before the Virgin Mary. [1] He returned again on May 4th, the first Saturday of the month dedicated to Mary, to recite the Rosary.

“The “Salus Populi Romani” is the mother that looks after our growth, she helps us face and overcome problems, she gives us freedom,” the Pope said. One image of the Virgin Mary which Bergoglio helped to spread devotion for in Argentina, was that of “Our Lady, Untier of Knots”. This tradition originates from a Bavarian devotional image (Maria Knotenlöserin) created by German painter, Johann Melchior Schmidtner, in 1700. The icon is now preserved as an altar piece in a chapel inside the Romanesque church of St. Peter am Perlach, in the Bavarian city of Augsburg. Bergoglio discovered the icon during one of his study trips to Ingolstadt and started spreading the word about it when he returned to Argentina. As auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires, he dedicated a shrine to the icon and as archbishop he inaugurated a number chapels named after the Virgin Mary depicted in the icon. [2]

Francis is a pope who is deeply devoted to the Virgin Mary and is not afraid to show his attachment to forms of devotion which post-Conciliar theology saw as dated. HIs Marian devotion should not be a surprise coming from a country and continent both replete with innumerable Marian icons, titles, and devotions of both Spanish and indigenous origin.

His outward expressions of love for Mary have caught the attention of the faithful including those interested to see what his papacy would encourage with regards to Marian devotion. With the Medjugorje report left in limbo with the resignation of now emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, many supporters of the famed alleged 1981 apparitions of Bosnia-Hercegovinia have been awaiting signs of the predispositions of his successor. A recent unconfirmed report from Croatian news portal Brotnjo Info suggests that a positive report of the investigative commission has been completed and placed in the hands of Pope Francis. [3]

The new pontiff has shown an openness to Marian apparitions. Following in the tradition of Benedict XVI and the popes of the 20th century, he has shown an affinity for Our Lady of Fatima who appeared to three Portuguese shepherd children in 1917. Pope Francis has asked that his papacy be consecrated to Our Lady under that title. On May 13, 2013, the bishops of Portugal are expected to pray on Pope Francis’ behalf a prayer of consecration, as he has asked them to do. [4]

While he has not explicitly expressed his opinion on Medjugorje either as an Argentinian cardinal or as Pope, Francis I reportedly has not shown himself to be unfavorable to the controversial ongoing apparitions. When Mons. Emilio Ogñénovich, retired Archbishop of Mercedes-Luján (Argentina) visited Medjugorje in May 2006, in an interview with Radio Mir Medjugorje he reported that "our cardinal, Mons. Bergoglio, was very happy when I told him that I was going to Medjugorje." [5] It is also reported that on at least three occasions he approved the visits to parishes or a stadium in his archdiocese of two priests and a Medjugorje visionary, Ivan Dragicevic; the seer's latest visit came on March 4, just two weeks before Francis's election as Pope. [6]

Whether or not Pope Francis will act on the Medjugorje report in the near future (or at all) is currently unknown as are his leanings regarding the supernaturality of these alleged events. What is known is his tremendous love for Our Lady and the eagerness of the Catholic faithful to follow his lead.








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