John Paul II Foundation

Cardinal Stanisław Ryłko to Friends of the John Paul II Foundation

I would like to share with you the news that on December 28th the Holy Father Francis appointed me as the Archpriest of the Archpriest of Saint Mary Major Basilica in Rome, while on February 2nd, on the feast of Our Lady of Candlemas, I solemnly started this honorable service.  All pilgrims traveling to the Eternal City know this place very well.  This Basilica is the oldest Marian’s shrine in the West and its origin goes back to the Council of Ephesus in the year 431, which defined the dogma of Divine Motherhood of Mary.  This Basilica is characterized by an extraordinary beauty of the architecture and works of art and it is considered the mother of all Marian shrines in the Christian world, a priceless monument of faith and love of so many generations of Christians to the Blessed Mother, venerated there in the famous Icon called Salus Populi Romani, that means: Salvation of the Roman People…This place was and is visited by Holy Fathers and saints as well as many faithful people from around the world.  This is an important spiritual heritage which involves over 15 centuries of history and which forces us to reflect:  how we should live today with this heritage?  How to pass on this legacy to the next generation?…

As I mentioned, Holy Fathers regularly visited the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, among them was also St. John Paul II, whose fervent devotion to Mother of God is well known to all.  When it comes to the Holy Father Francis, his spiritual relationship with the Basilica, especially with the beautiful Icon Salus Populi Romani (Salvation of the Roman People) is particularly vivid and deep. The very next day after the election, Pope Francis went to Our Lady to entrust to Her his pontificate.  It was counted that since the beginning of his pontificate, he visited the Basilica more than 40 times!  Even before his election as a Cardinal – as he admits himself – during each visit to the Eternal City, he visited the Chapel of Mother of God in this Basilica.  This place was and is for him an important point of reference.  His great concern today is that the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore should remain faithful to its mission; that is it should be a true Marian’s Shrine, a place of prayer and worship and authentic Marian devotion of faithful people, as it was for so many centuries.

We know very well that living Marian devotion is characteristic for our Polish religiousness.  It is also the Force which allowed us to survive difficult times of our history.  We, Poles learn to love our Blessed Mother at our homes, especially from our mothers…That’s why I accepted this nomination for the Archpriest of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore with undisguised joy and I consider it as a great privilege to serve the Mother of God in this special and historic place.  I see in this nomination a kind of crowning for my many years of work in Vatican, at the service of the Successor of Peter.  I would also like to add that the image of Our Lady Salus Populi Romani (Salvation of the Roman People) is with me since my childhood, even though I did not know its history and the true name.  The old copy of this icon is venerated for a long time in the church, in my home town – Andrychów.  Inscrutable are the paths of the Lord!…Hence, it was a long path: from the copy of the icon in Andrychów to the original image in Rome.  Also, it should be noted that in Poland approximately 350 copies of this Rome’s image is honored in various churches and 37 of them were decorated with Papal’s crowns.  About 350 Marian shrines in Poland are affiliated to the Basilica of Rome, as the Mother of all Marian shrines in the Christian world.  Therefore, it is the Basilica which is particularly close to us, Poles.  All of this explains my great gratitude to the Holy Father Francis for this nomination.  At the same time, I would like to ask all Friends of the John Paul II Foundation for prayers so I could fulfill in the best way the mission entrusted to me by the Holy Father…

I cordially bless all Friends of the John Paul II Foundation!

Cardinal Stanisław Ryłko