(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday morning paid a private visit to the Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome, where – as has become customary – he prayed before the icon of Maria Salus Populi Romani ahead of his Apostolic Voyage to Mexico.
From St Mary Major, the Holy Father made the short journey to Rome’s Cathedral, the Archbasilica of St John Lateran, where the priests of the diocese were meeting at the beginning of Lent. During the visit, Pope Francis heard the confessions of several priests.
On the website of the Vicariate of Rome, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the Vicar for the City of Rome, explained the meeting of priests had a “penitential” character, offering the clergy the opportunity “to have an experience of the mercy of the Father; and, in turn, to be able to ministers of mercy in the communities entrusted to us.”
As a Lenten “sign,” the offering taken up during the encounter was donated to the diocesan branch of Caritas.
Finally, Cardinal Vallini noted, Pope Francis offered as a gift to each of the priests of the diocese a copy of his book “The Name of God is Mercy.”