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Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Jubilee 2000

Blessed Pope John Paul II's Prayer to Mary
Piazza di Spagna, 8 December 2000 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

Today, 8th December, Romans have once again
made a devout pilgrimage to this historic Piazza di Spagna,
where in 1856 Blessed Pius IX wanted to erect this Marian monument
to recall the promulgation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.

We pay homage to Mary Most Holy,
preserved from the contagion of original sin
and from any other hint of sin from the very first moment,
in virtue of the merits of her Son, Jesus Christ, our only Redeemer.

As I do every year, I willingly join in the offering
of this traditional floral tribute, an eloquent symbol of
unanimous entrustment to the Immaculate Heart of the Lord's Mother.

In the context of the Great Jubilee,
the truth of faith which the Church professes and proclaims today resounds with exceptional clarity: 
"I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed;
he shall bruise your head" (Gn 3: 15).

Prophetic words of hope, echoing since the dawn of history!
They foretell the victory that Jesus, "born of woman" (Gal 4: 4), would win over Satan, the prince of this world.

"He shall bruise your head":  the Son's victory is the Mother's victory,
the victory of the Immaculate Servant of the Lord, who intercedes for us as advocate of mercy.
This is the mystery we celebrate today;
this is the proclamation we renew with faith at the foot of this Marian column.

Rome, cradle of history and civilization, chosen by God as the see of Peter and his successors,
land sanctified by numerous martyrs and witnesses of the faith,
opens her arms this day to the entire world.

Rome, centre of the Catholic faith,
speaks on behalf of the Christian people scattered across the five continents
and proclaims with joyful faith: in you, Mary, Love has triumphed.

"I will put enmity between you and the woman...".
Do not these mysterious words from the Book of Genesis sum up the dramatic truth of all human history?
At the end of its work 35 years ago, the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council recalled
that history, in its deepest reality, is the scene of "an arduous struggle against the powers of darkness,
which started at the world's beginning and will continue, as the Lord tells us, until the last day" (Gaudium et spes, 37).

This relentless conflict involves man, every human being,
who "has to struggle continuously to be allied with what is good,
and only with great effort and the help of God's grace can he achieve his own inner unity".

Immaculate Virgin, Mother of the Saviour,
the ages tell of your motherly presence supporting the pilgrim people on the paths of history.
To you we raise our eyes and ask you to sustain us in the struggle against evil and in the effort to do good.
Keep us under your motherly protection, Virgin all fair and all holy!
Help us go forward into the new millennium clothed with that humility
which made you beloved above all in the sight of the Most High.

May the fruits of this Jubilee Year not be wasted!
In your hands we place the future that awaits us,
invoking your constant protection on the whole world.
Therefore, like the Apostle John, we want to take you into our home (cf Jn 19: 27).

Stay with us, Mary, stay with us always!
Ora pro nobis, intercede pro nobis,
ad Dominum Iesum Christum! Amen.

Blessed John Paul II's Homily at the Celebration of the Akathistos Hymn
Basilica of Saint Mary Major - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

1. Mary "is an icon of the Church, the symbol and anticipation of humanity transfigured by grace, the model and the unfailing hope for all those who direct their steps towards the heavenly Jerusalem" (Apostolic Letter Orientale lumen, n. 6).

"Dear brothers and sisters! Here we have gathered together in the basilica that the Roman people, shortly after the Council of Ephesus, dedicated with devout fervour to the Holy Virgin Mary. This evening the Byzantine liturgical tradition celebrates First Vespers of the Conception of St Anne, while the Latin liturgy praises the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God.

I express my heartfelt satisfaction with the participation of this group of brothers and sisters, who are with us this evening representing the Eastern Catholic Churches. I extend a cordial greeting to all the Byzantine-rite Bishops here in this basilica along with their faithful.

2. This evening we have all been filled with deep joy: the joy of praising Mary with the Akathistos Hymn, so dear to the Eastern tradition. It is a song centred on Christ, contemplated in the light of his Virgin Mother. It invites us 144 times to repeat to Mary the Archangel Gabriel's greeting: Hail, Mary!

We have retraced the stages of her life and offered praise for the marvels worked in her by the Almighty: from the virginal conception, the beginning and principle of the new creation, to her divine motherhood, to her sharing in her Son's mission, especially the moments of his passion, death and resurrection.

Mother of the risen Lord and Mother of the Church, Mary goes before us and leads us to genuine knowledge of God and to the encounter with the Redeemer. She indicates the way to us and shows us her Son. In celebrating her with joy and gratitude, we honour the holiness of God, whose mercy has worked marvels in his humble handmaid. We greet her with the title Full of Grace and implore her intercession for all the children of the Church, which celebrates her glory with this Akathistos Hymn.

May she guide us this Christmas to contemplate the mystery of the God made man for our salvation!"