The Pope’s leading of the Supplication of the Blessed Virgin of the Rosary, a prayer written by Blessed Bartolo Longo (1841-1926) was one of the high points of this 12th pastoral trip in Italy.
“We implore you to have pity today on the nations that have gone astray, on all Europe, on the whole world, that they might repent and return to your heart,” the text of the prayer reads.
With the words of Bartolo, the Pontiff turned to Mary, saying: “If you will not help us because we are ungrateful and unworthy children of your protection, we will not know to whom to turn.”
In a gesture of filial love, the Pope then offered the Madonna a golden rose. He had travelled by helicopter in the morning to Pompeii, and was welcomed by 50,000 faithful. This is the third time a Pope has visited the shrine.
Pompeii was destroyed by the lava and ashes from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD. The new Pompeii arose 1,796 years later, when, in 1872, Bartolo Longo, a lawyer and lay Dominican, built a church dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary. The shrine contains an image of Mary to which hundreds of miracles and healings are attributed.
In the homily delivered during Holy Mass yesterday, the Pope evoked the figure of Bartolo Longo, who, like St Paul, had persecuted the Church, “becoming militantly anticlerical and engaging in spiritualist and superstitious practices.”
Longo was a satanist priest who later repented when he encountered the “true face of God,” the Holy Father said.
“Wherever God comes in this desert, flowers bloom,” said Benedict XVI. “Even Blessed Bartolo Longo, with his personal conversion, bears witness to this spiritual power that transforms man from within and makes him capable of doing great things according to God’s designs. This city, which he re-founded is thus a historical demonstration of how God transforms the world: filling man’s heart with charity.”
“Here in Pompeii,” the Pope continued, “it is understood that love for God and love for neighbour are inseparable. Here at Mary’s feet, families rediscover or reinforce the joy of love that keeps them united.”
The secret of Pompeii, the Holy Father revealed, is the rosary: “This prayer leads us through Mary to Jesus. The rosary is a contemplative prayer that is accessible to all: great and small, lay people and clerics, cultured and uncultured. The rosary is a spiritual weapon in the struggle against evil, against all violence, for peace in hearts, in families, in society and in the world.”