Among the many saints lined up around the Square, the image of the Virgin Mary lays perched atop the Apostolic Palace. The idea to bring her there came from John Paul II.
FR. SLAWOMIR ODER
Postulator, John Paul II
"Pope Francis, talking about John Paul II, has said many times that he was struck by his piety, his sense of prayer, but above all, by his relationship with Mary, his Marian devotion.”
Growing up, John Paul II had a great devotion for his country's patroness, Our Lady of Czestochowa, also known as the Black Madonna. But when his fellow cardinals elected him Pope in 1978, that devotion became clearer.
Within his papal seal, there's a prominent M beneath a cross, to symbolize the Virgin Mary. Meanwhile, his apostolic motto reads Totus tuus, or totally yours, a sign of his personal consecration to Our Lady.
Seven days later, John Paul II visited the Marian Sanctuary at Mentorella, outside Rome. It would be the first of many visits to the world's Marian shrines.
Over the course of the next three decades, he made similar stops; including to Fatima in Portugal, Aparecida in Brazil, and Lourdes in France, his last apostolic trip.
During his pontificate, John Paul II entrusted the world to Our Lady on three occasions. The first in 1981, at St. Mary Major in Rome. The second time, the year after, at the Shrine at Fatima, Portugal. The third, in 1984 at St. Peter's Square.
For the start of the Jubilee celebrations in 2000, he also entrusted the new millennium to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
But perhaps some of the biggest sign of his devotion are his apostolic letter and encyclical devoted to Our Lady. Within his encyclical Redemptoris Mater, from 1987, John Paul II cemented the role of Our Lady as mother of the Church, as well as an intercessor.
The Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, was one of the Polish Pope's last texts. The document reflects on the power of the Rosary, and its relevance to the Gospel. It also talks about how devotion to Our Lady brings people closer to Christ.