Pope Benedict made the annual visit to Spain’s Square, the Spanish Steps as it’s known, to lay a wreathe at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to offer a prayer of filial devotion and to encourage the faithful in our faith. His address follows:

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Also this year
we have made an appointment here, in Piazza di Spagna, to render homage to the
Immaculate Virgin, on the occasion of her solemn feast. To all of you, who have
come in great numbers, as well as all those taking part through radio and
television, I address my cordial greeting. We are gathered around this historic
monument, which today is all surrounded by flowers, sign of the love and
devotion of the Roman people for the Mother of Jesus. And the most beautiful
gift, and most pleasing to her, that we offer is our prayer, the one we bear in
our hearts and which we entrust to her intercession
. They are invocations of
gratitude and supplication: of gratitude for the gift of faith and for all the
good that we receive daily from God; and supplication for our different needs,
for the family, health, work, for every difficulty that life has us encounter.

But when we come here, especially on this feast of December 8, much more important is what we receive from Mary, in comparison to what we offer her. In fact, she gives a message destined to each one of us, to the city of Rome and to the entire world. Also I, who am bishop of this city, come to listen, not only for myself but for all. And what does Mary say to us? She speaks to us with the Word of God, which became flesh in her womb. Her “message” is none other than Jesus, who is her whole life. It is thanks to Him and because of Him that she is Immaculate. And as the Son of God became man for us, so she too, the Mother, was preserved from sin for us, for all, in anticipation of God’s salvation for every man. Thus Mary says to us that we are all called to open ourselves to the action of the Holy Spirit to be able to reach, our final destination, to be immaculate, fully and definitively free of evil. She says so with her sanctity itself, with a look full of hope and compassion, which evokes words such as these: “Fear not, son, God loves you! He loves you personally; he thought of you before you came into the world and called you into existence to fill you with love and life; and because of this, he has come to meet you, he made himself like you, he became Jesus, God-Man, in everything similar to you, but without sin; he gave himself for you, to the point of dying on the cross, and thus has given you a new life, free, holy and immaculate” (cf. Ephesians 1:3-5).

Mary gives us this message and when I come here, on this feast, it strikes me, because I feel it is addressed to the whole city, to all men and women who live in Rome: also those who are not thinking, who today do not even remember that it is the feast of the Immaculate, and who feel alone and abandoned. Mary’s look is God’s look on each one of us. She looks at us with the very love of the Father and blesses us. She behaves as our “advocate” — and we invoke her thus in the Salve, Regina: “our advocate.” Even if everyone spoke evil of us, she, the Mother, would say the good, because her immaculate heart is attuned to God’s mercy. Thus she sees the city: not as an anonymous agglomeration, but as a constellation where God knows everyone personally by name, one by one, and calls us to shine with his light. And those that in the eyes of the world are the first, for God they are the last; those who are little, are great for God. He recognizes in each one the likeness with his Son Jesus, even if we are so different! But who more than she knows the power of Divine Grace? Who better than she knows that nothing is impossible for God, capable in fact of drawing good from evil?

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Dear brothers and sisters, the message we receive here, at the feet of Mary Immaculate, is a message of trust for every person of this city and of the whole world. A message of hope not made of words, but of her own history: she is one of us, who gave birth to the Son of God and has shared all her own existence with him! And today she says to us: this is also your destiny, yours, the destiny of all: to be saints as our Father, to be immaculate as our Brother Jesus Christ, to be loved children, all adopted to form a great family, without limits of nationality, color, language, because God is one, Father of every man.

Thank you, O Mary Immaculate, for always being with us! Always watch over our city: comfort the sick, encourage young people, sustain families. Infuse the strength to reject evil, in every form, and to choose the good, even when it costs and entails going against the current. Give us the joy of feeling loved by God, blessed by Him, predestined to be his children.

Immaculate Virgin, our sweetest Mother, pray for us!