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Pope blessed restored statue, a favorite of the people of Rome

Catholic World News - June 24, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI traveled across Rome on June 24 to bless a beloved statue of the Virgin Mary that has been restored after being severely damaged in a storm last year.

The Holy Father visited the Don Orione Centre for the unveiling of the statue of Mary, Salus Populi Romani. The giant copper statue was toppled from its 19-foot pedestal by high winds last October. Because of their great affection for the statue, the people of Rome urged a speedy restoration; Pope Benedict, too, wrote that he hoped “that the statue be replaced as soon as possible for the devotion of all Romans.”

As he arrived at the Don Orione Centre for the unveiling, the Pope said that the image of the Virgin “stands to remind us of dramatic and providential events written in the history and conscience of the city.” The statue was erected in fulfillment of a vow; Pope Pius XII had given his backing to a popular outcry to place the safety of Rome during World War II in the hands of Our Lady of Divine Love. That vow was officially pronounced on June 4, 1944, the Pope recalled, adding: “On that every day Rome was peacefully liberated.”

The vow had been originally proposed by the Don Orione centers in Rome, and so the statue was first unveiled in 1953 at the Don Orione Centre in the Monte Mario neighborhood. The sculptor was Minerbi Arrigo, a Jewish artist who did the work in gratitude after having been hidden by the Don Orione Centre in 1943 when Nazi leaders were rounding up the city’s Jewish residents to be deported to concentration camps.

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