The Italian president and a senior Vatican official visited the Holy House of Loreto Tuesday for the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican Secretary for Relations with States, said Sept. 8 in Loreto: “We are here to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on the occasion of the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in this glorious sanctuary, where, according to tradition, are enshrined the stones of the Holy House of Nazareth, where the greeting of the angel resounded.”

The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the celebration of Mary’s birth, is of particular importance to the Holy House in Loreto, Italy, as tradition holds that it contains parts of the walls of the home in which the Virgin Mary was born, raised, and greeted by the Angel Gabriel at the Annunciation.

Historical documentation shows that the Holy House of Mary was brought from Palestine to Italy in the 13th century.

“In this Marian sanctuary, intimately linked to the Apostolic See and considered through the centuries the Marian heart of Christianity, you breathe the spiritual air of Nazareth. Therefore we are today like pilgrims. Encouraged by the light of the Word of God and strengthened by the Eucharistic food, we will glorify the Father, who has desired for us to be intimately part of His divine life,” Gallagher said in his homily.

Following the Mass presided over by the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States, Italian President Sergio Mattarella lit a lamp for peace near the altar of the basilica, while Archbishop Fabio Dal Cin, the rector of Loreto, invoked a blessing for Italy and for the whole world.

A few days prior, the Italian president had visited Milan Cathedral, where Giuseppe Verdi’s Requiem Mass was performed in honor of victims of the coronavirus pandemic.

Throughout the pandemic, Loreto has offered a daily livestream of the rosary prayed inside of the Holy House of Mary.

The Shrine of Our Lady of Loreto is currently celebrating a jubilee year marking the 100th anniversary of the official proclamation of Our Lady of Loreto as the patroness of pilots and air passengers. There was a blessing of the Italian Air Force after the Mass Sept. 8.

According to tradition, the Holy House of Mary was transported by angels from the Holy Land to the Italian hill town overlooking the Adriatic Sea. Due to this connection with flight, Pope Benedict XV declared Our Lady of Loreto patroness of aviators in March 1920.

Last month Pope Francis approved the extension of this jubilee year until Dec. 10, 2021, due to the disruption caused by the coronavirus crisis. Catholics visiting the basilica during the jubilee can obtain a plenary indulgence under the usual conditions.

“Here in the Holy House of Loreto we experience in a particular way the presence and power of Mary. How many times some of us have called upon the presence of Mother Mary in our own lives, the presence of a mother who infallibly guides us always to a more profound union with her Son,” Gallagher said.