On Tuesday papal spokesperson Greg Burke announced two new additions to Pope Francis’ May calendar: A visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Divine Love in Rome and a meeting with members of the Neocatechumenal Way.
Francis’ visit to the Shrine of Divine Love, as it is known locally, will take place in the late afternoon on May 1. There, the pope will pray the Rosary to mark the beginning of the May, the month of Mary.
On May 5 he will participate in an international meeting of the Neocatechumenal Way at the University of Rome “Tor Vergata,” for the movement’s 50th anniversary. The Neocatechumenal Way is a Catholic community founded in 1964 in Madrid, Spain, dedicated to post- and pre-baptismal formation of Christians.
The visit to the popular Roman Shrine of Our Lady of Divine Love will be Pope Francis’ first. He was scheduled to go there May 18, 2014, but three days before the scheduled visit, it was canceled to lighten his commitment-load the week before his apostolic journey to the Holy Land, according to then-papal spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi.
The extensive shrine consists of several buildings, including an old church, which was built in 1745, and a new, larger church, which was added by St. John Paul in 1999.
According to tradition, the old church was built on the site of a miraculous healing, which occurred in 1740 when a man prayed for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary after being attacked and gravely wounded by dogs.
It had been the site of a castle with a boundary wall and towers in the 13th century, which by the 19th century had largely fallen into ruin. One tower remains today, however, which contains a medieval fresco of the Madonna and Child.
Over the years, various popes have visited the shrine to ask for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, including Pope Pius XII, who visited to pray for Mary’s protection of the city of Rome during the Second World War.
On June 11, 1944, surrounded by a large crowd, Pius XII gave the image the title of “Salvatrice dell’Urbe,” meaning “Deliverer of the City.”
Pope Benedict XVI, who visited the shrine on May 1, 2006, said it was “a source of comfort” to recite the Rosary in the Shrine of Our Lady of Divine Love, “in which the devoted affection for the Virgin Mary is expressed, rooted in the soul and in the history of the people of Rome.”
“A particular joy,” he continued, “comes from the thought of renewing the experience of my beloved Predecessor John Paul II, who, exactly 27 years ago, on the first day of May 1979, made his first visit as a Pontiff to this Shrine.”