The Pope knelt before the image of Our Lady of Fatima, recalling the "invisible hand" that saved the life of Pope John Paul II in 1981 when he was shot by Alí Agca in St. Peter's Square. The assassination attempt took place on May 13, the anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady in Fatima.
Benedict XVI noted how John Paul II visited Fatima three times, attributing to the intercession of Mary the fact that the bullet wounds were not fatal. In 1982, the Polish Pope placed the bullet that shot him in the crown of the image of Our Lady.
"It is a profound consolation to know that you are crowned not only with the silver and gold of our joys and hopes, but also with the 'bullet' of our anxieties and sufferings," Benedict XVI said in his prayer.
The Holy Father also noted that he brought with him a Golden Rose "as a homage of gratitude from the Pope for the marvels that the Almighty has worked through you in the hearts of so many who come as pilgrims to this your maternal home."
The Golden Rose is a papal decoration conferred on prominent Catholic personalities; it has gone through a significant evolution.
Initially, kings and dignitaries received it, later it was conferred almost exclusively on queens and, more recently, on Our Lady. The distinction was created by Pope Leo IX in 1049.
In more recent times, after the Second Vatican Council, the papal decoration has become almost exclusively a gift from popes to Our Lady.
This was the 10th Golden Rose that the Pontiff has given to Our Lady in the more than five years of his Pontificate.
The other nine were given to the Shrine of Jasna Góra in Poland (2006), the Basilica of Aparecida in Brazil (2007), the Mariazell Basilica in Austria (2007), the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. (2008), Our Lady of Bonaria in Cagliari, Italy (2008), Our Lady of Pompeii, Italy (2008), Our Lady of Europe in Gibraltar (2009), and the "Virgen de la Cabeza" (literally, Virgin of the Head) of the Diocese of Jaen, Spain (2009), and the Shrine of Our Lady of Ta' Pinu (2010).
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