With most restrictions from the pandemic lifted, the city of Rome was able to participate in the pope's annual homage to Mary on the feast of the Immaculate Conception for the first time in three years.
Yet what made Pope Francis' visit to Rome's Piazza di Spagna so powerful was not the return to normalcy, but the tears he could not hold back when praying for Ukraine before a statue of the Immaculate Conception.
Today I wanted to bring you the thanks of the Ukrainian people...of the Ukrainian people, for the peace for which we have asked the Lord for so long.
Typically, popes say prayers of thanksgiving and offer petitions before the statue of Mary on this feast day.
Pope Francis hoped to thank Mary for an end to the war in Ukraine. On March 25, he consecrated Russia and Ukraine in a special way to her immaculate heart. Yet he expressed his sadness at the fact that no end to the war yet appears in sight.
Instead, I have to offer you again the pleas of children, the elderly, fathers and mothers, and the youth of that tormented land, who suffer so much. But in truth we know that you are with them and with all those suffering, just as you stood by the cross of your Son.
Popes have continued the tradition of visiting this statue for decades to celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception, which was made dogma in 1854.